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RFID Consortium Releases Patent-Licensing Portfolio

The program enables vendors of UHF passive RFID tags and readers to purchase licenses through a patent pool, reducing the time and cost associated with negotiating individual patent agreements, and potentially enabling them to introduce new products sooner.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 01, 2010After five years of development work, the RFID Consortium has released a patent portfolio for EPC Gen 1, EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technologies that RFID hardware manufacturers can license for a single fee. Payments are made quarterly, based on the number of tags or readers produced or sold.

The portfolio, which consists of pools of intellectual property (IP) belonging to the eight RFID companies that have joined the group's patent pool to date, is considered essential in order for RFID tags and readers to be compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards. Sisvel US, the portfolio's license administrator, together with the consortium's members, announced the portfolio that would allow RFID technology firms access to five-year patent-licensing agreements with the entire group of consortium members. Those members whose licenses are included in the portfolio are 3M, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), France Telecom, Hewlett-Packard (HP), LG Electronics, Motorola, ThingMagic and Zebra Technologies.

Jim O'Hagan
The portfolio is expected to promote faster adoption of UHF technology, by sparing RFID technology developers and manufacturers from having to individually negotiate patent licenses with each company. That becomes an even more arduous task, says Jim O'Hagan, the consortium's spokesperson and Zebra Technologies' director of patents and technology, because EPCglobal and ISO/IEC standards often force vendors to seek out multiple manufacturers and developers to patch together the IP licensing necessary to manufacture a particular piece of RFID hardware that meets the standards.

The technology comes with a discount for those who purchase a license before March 30, 2011, says Sean Corey, Sisvel's IP counsel. For those early adopters, he explains, the cost can be as little as 80 cents per 1,000 tags and $5 per reader, depending on the volume produced. "We think people who come in the next six months will save more than 50 percent off their licensing fees," he states, comparing the early-adopter rate with the fees that would typically be negotiated in a licensing agreement between two companies.

Any RFID technology company can participate, including those that are not RFID Consortium members but that wish to obtain a license from one of the eight current consortium portfolio licensors, as well as those firms that have a patent and would like to make that patent license available through the portfolio. The group is also reaching out to other owners of patents related to EPC Gen 2 UHF technology, in the hope of including more IP in the portfolio.

The consortium was first formed by several RFID companies in 2005 (see RFID Consortium Taps MPEG LA), and the resulting licensing development was completed over the past five years. "The program itself came into conception in 2005, as patent owners began working together to develop a single RFID license," O'Hagan states. "We decided to combine our forces and create a low-cost mechanism for licensing patents."

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