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Zebra Buys $10m in RFID Intellectual Property

Zebra Technologies broadened its RFID intellectual property portfolio by acquiring IP and patents from BTG, a technology transfer company. BTG, which has been involved in RFID for years and previously helped commercialize the Supertag for retail item tagging, is now fully divested of RFID technology.
Sep 25, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 25, 2006—Zebra Technologies continues to expand its RFID technology and intellectual property (IP) portfolio. Today Zebra announced the acquisition of more than 200 international patents and patent applications for RFID technology from BTG, a UK technology transfer company. Zebra said the acquisition includes some of the earliest RFID-related patents and makes it one of the largest RFID intellectual property holders.

BTG sold the IP to Zebra for approximately $10 million because it is divesting lines of business to focus on medical research and technology. The sale ends BTG's involvement in the RFID industry, which included commercialization of the Supertag product that helped focus attention on the idea of item-level tagging for retailers. BTG also invested in now-defunct RFID reader manufacturer SAMSys and engaged in product development with Atmel, among other efforts.

Zebra was the first company to produce an integrated RFID printer/encoder. Today it has a broad printer/encoder line that supports multiple HF and UHF standards and technologies, including EPCglobal Gen2. In July Zebra announced that it had licensed phase-jitter modulation (PJM) technology from Magellan Technologies. PJM is an ISO-standard (ISO 18003 Mode 2) HF technology that is promoted for high-speed reading and item-level identification applications.

Last year Zebra also became a founding member of a patent consortium for the RFID industry. (See RFID Industry Patent Consortium Announced and RFID Patent Pool Selects Third-Party Administrator.) Zebra's BTG acquisition should add depth to that patent pool.

"This acquisition is part of Zebra's investment in a broad range of products and technologies necessary to be successful in RFID," Zebra senior vice president for corporate development Philip Gerskovich said in Zebra's announcement. "Zebra is a founding member in the RFID consortium currently in formation for the efficient licensing of RFID intellectual property. With the company's active acquisition and development of RFID products and technologies, Zebra continues to take a leadership role for the rapid commercialization of this promising technology."

Despite the eight-figure price tag, the purchase is not an especially high-risk investment for Zebra. In its most recent quarterly earnings report the company announced it had record sales plus a $585 million cash hoard, with no long-term debt. Although the total amount of the deal could reach $10 million, Zebra had already purchased some IP from BTG and additional purchases are conditional, according to BTG's announcement. Zebra will pay BTG at least $3.8 million in the deal announced today.

"[This acquisition] demonstrates our commitment to deploy capital to extend Zebra's global competitive position and enhance downstream revenue opportunities," said Gerskovich.

Read the announcement
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