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Intermec and Symbol Settle RFID Lawsuits

After 15 months of legal wrangling, industry leaders Intermec and Symbol Technologies have announced an official agreement to lay down their arms -- that is, lawyers. While specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed, it is described broadly as having settled "all outstanding intellectual property disputes between the two companies."
Jul 19, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 19, 2006—After 15 months of legal wrangling, industry leaders Intermec and Symbol Technologies on Tuesday announced an official agreement to lay down their arms -- that is, lawyers.

While specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed, it is described broadly as having settled "all outstanding intellectual property disputes". The two companies will cross license certain patents and have agreed that for a period of four years they will not initiate new lawsuits on the remaining patents (which number more than 1,500). Furthermore, existing patent infringement damage claims and those that could arise before the end of the four-year period have been released. The press release is silent on any monetary component to the agreement.

This development ends what had become something of a saga in the RFID industry. It officially began when Intermec filed suit against Matrics, an RFID hardware manufacturer subsequently purchased by Symbol, which inherited the suit. During the first half of 2005, the companies engaged in a tit-for-tat suing and countersuing battle that became increasingly high-stakes (see Symbol vs. Intermec, "Clash of the Titans"). While aspects of the suits touched on wireless and barcode technologies, it was widely perceived that the tussle was largely about RFID.

Finally, in September of last year, the two companies announced that they had reached agreement. Symbol joined Intermec's Rapid Start RFID intellectual property licensing program, giving it access to Intermec's RFID IP, and Intermec in turn got access to Symbol's RFID IP (see Analysis of Intermec-Symbol Settlement). There have been no developments since then.

Until this week's official hatchet burial. Without access to the agreement details, it is difficult to determine with certainty how it affects either company. But on its face, the development seems positive for both. At the very least, they will be relieved of three to five million dollars in burdensome legal fees, points out Chris Quilty, senior vice president of equity research at Raymond James. Furthermore, Symbol and Intermec management will be able to reallocate the attention consumed by the lawsuits back to running their businesses.

"Net-net," commented Quilty in a report on the settlement, "the announcement represents a healthy positive for both companies, which removes financial, legal, and 'perception' burdens from both parties. Legal issues resolved, the two companies are now free to resume their bitter competition in the marketplace instead of the courtroom."

Read the joint announcement from Intermec & Symbol
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