Intermec IP Program Earns Stripes with Zebra

By Admin

Last week saw a major development on the RFID intellectual property landscape as Zebra Technologies joined the Rapid Start Licensing Program of Intermec Technologies. Intermec's stock spiked on the news.

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 27, 2005—Last week saw a major development on the RFID intellectual property landscape as Zebra Technologies, the Vernon Hills, Illinois-based manufacturer of RFID printers, on Wednesday announced that it had joined the Rapid Start Licensing Program of Everett, Washington's Intermec Technologies. Zebra chose the cross-licensing option, which allowed it some pricing discounts by offering Intermec access to its own portfolio of RFID intellectual property. According to the press release, Zebra now has access to Intermec-owned IP affecting "RFID tags, fixed and portable readers, and fixed and portable printers." There was no mention of the IP Zebra provided in return.

Intermec's Rapid Start Licensing Program was devised to make licensing of the company's patent portfolio temporarily simpler and more affordable. It began the first of this month and will conclude ninety days later, on the 31st of August. The program came largely in response to the industry's negative reaction to Intermec's move to charge royalties for the use of fundamental RFID intellectual property. Amid confusion and some resentment, the company wanted to clarify its position, standardize its IP cost structure, and incent vendors to sign up. After August 31st, Intermec will raise the licensing fees. President Tom Miller said to RFID Update in May that with Rapid Start, "We are taking our IP, making it available, and giving companies an incentive to sign up." Upon the program's conclusion in August, it will be clear which companies are official Intermec licensees and which are not. At that point, said Miller, "there will be closure to this process."

Zebra's joining of the program represents the highest-profile signup to date. The company is publicly-traded, had sales of $660 million last year, and is widely considered the leader in the bar code and RFID printer market segment. The stock of Intermec's parent company, UNOVA, reacted very strongly to the news, spiking almost 20% to make it a top percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange. A Bear Sterns analyst upgraded the stock from "peer perform" to "outperform" on the logic that the Rapid Start program would gain traction and that Intermec could realize its goal of charging royalties on fundamental RFID technology.

Read the announcement at Intermec's site