RFID Vendors Join Forces to Spur Market, but Trouble Ahead

Last week, a group of 20 radio-frequency identification vendors said they'd pool intellectual property they deem essential to the technology's development. But there's already trouble: At least two major RFID vendors, Intermec Technologies Corp. and Samsys Technologies Inc., aren't involved. The consortium, filing as a limited liability corporation, aims to make it easier for companies building RFID equipment to license intellectual property through a single source.

Industry collaboration sounds good to Mark Butler, systems implementation manager at Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. The airline wants to be able to test different RFID equipment that supports one worldwide standard. "We operate in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and we don't want to complicate things by having different technologies depending on where we fly," he says.

But Samsys chairman and CEO Cliff Horwitz, who bowed out of the consortium after three meetings, says that some in the group don't have the best record when it comes to collaborating. Several refrained from offering royalty-free intellectual property when standards group EPCglobal Inc. was working out the next-generation Gen 2 RFID standard, finalized in December, Horwitz says.

And the consortium didn't ask Intermec, which holds patents on many key RFID technologies, to join until a week before the group launched. It's too early to say whether Intermec will join, president Tom Miller says, though he adds that the group could benefit the industry "because it would round up companies with patents that haven't made them known."

Stan Drobac, consortium spokesman and VP of RFID strategy and planning at member Avery Dennison Corp., declined to comment on Samsys' or Intermec's absence, saying only that the consortium contacted all the vendors who have essential intellectual property.

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