Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Target: RFID - RFID's promise of low-cost tags for asset tracking seems set to sour thanks to a patent lawsuit that is casting a cloud over standards work in the previously harmonious RFID world. Barcode supremo Intermec Technologies has sued RFID tag and reader maker Matrics, basing its claim on four patents.

"This could open up a world where who has what IP is what counts," said Erik Miehielsen, director of ABI Research. "It is not a disaster, but it could put up the cost of RFID systems, and delay the standards."

Intermec's lawsuit is strange because the company has showed little sign of litigation before, despite a lot of high profile activity and plenty of products in the field, and a solid set of patents, which include one for the basic idea of a thin, cheap, flexible radio beacon. Also, the patents could equally apply to virtually all the other vendors in the emerging RFID market, including giants such as Texas Instruments and Royal Philips Electronics, and new startups such as Alien Technology, yet the company is suing just one competitor, Matrics.

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