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RFID patent pool prices up wireless

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The RFID Consortium has opened for business after five years of negotiations, providing a one-stop shop for all the patents needed to manufacture RFID tags and readers.

The negotiations were drawn out by the large number of patents involved and concerns that a single pool might attract attention from anti-trust regulators. But now anyone wanting to create RFID tags can do so with a single licence from the Consortium, with an early bird discount price of 80 cents per thousand tags in place until March next year.

That discount also applies to RFID readers, which will cost $5 in royalty payments, split between the eight companies who make up the Consortium. There's no guarantee however that other patent negotiations won't be needed - Intermec, for example, is not a member despite having considerable intellectual holdings in the industry.

But it should make life easier for those considering embedded RFID tags into products - instead of having to negotiate prices, duration and conditions with eight separate companies the licensee can just pay one fee to the Consortium.

The pool approach is exemplified by the MPEG LA, which was set up to provide a single licence for video codecs. These days the MPEG LA holds patent pools for half a dozen video formats, and is trying to gather patent holders to create a pool for LTE.

The process is not always successful - an attempt to create a patent pool for OMA DRM Version 2 resulted in a proposed price of $1 per handset and one cent for every download. Handset manufacturers refused to pay, and while a few negotiated directly with the patent holders to get a cheaper rate, in many cases the technology just didn't get deployed.

One can argue that handset DRM wasn't going to fly at any price, but the high rate demanded by the MPEG LA killed off the technology before it had a chance to fail on its own merits.

The prices being asked by the RFID Consortium seem more reasonable, and RFID Journal reckons the new licensing won't affect the price of tags, but will bring them to market quicker. ®

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