Patent Problems Hit RFIDs

from the uh-oh... dept

We were just talking about how both WiFi and WiMax may be facing patent problems from companies who claim they own patents over the technology and are waving them around along with licensing terms and legal treats. Now, Wal-Mart’s favorite new technology may face similar patent questions. Intermec Technologies has already sued one RFID technology supplier and are hoping that if those claims succeed, they’ll be able to hit up just about everyone else in the chain for fees as well. Considering that part of the appeal of RFIDs is their cheap price, this certainly could put a damper on the proceedings, unless Wal-Mart uses some of their spare billions to buy out the patents completely. Once again, though, this looks to be a case where patents are slowing down innovation, rather than speeding it up. Where’s the benefit again?

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Anonymous Coward (user link) says:


Wednesday July 7, 10:03 PM
School to put electronic tags on students to monitor safety

A primary school in Wakayama Prefecture will provide electronic tags on students’ belongings that will help parents and teachers monitor their safety on the way to and from school, a local bureau of the telecommunications ministry said Wednesday.
The tags — similar to those used for merchandise at retailers and wholesalers for inventory control — will be attached to students’ school bags or nameplates, while tag readers will be installed at the school gate and locations the parents and teachers think could be dangerous.

The readers will log the times students pass through the gate and alert the school when they approach designated “dangerous” premises, according to the Kinki Bureau of Telecommunications of the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications.

Parents may also receive such information via e-mail sent to their mobile phones, or directly contact the school.

The test will be conducted in October or November in cooperation with a public elementary school in Tabe, Wakayama Prefecture.

The bureau is planning to request the participation of all students after explaining the initiative to their parents as well as addressing privacy issues.

An official of the Kinki bureau said, “We hope to build a system that helps enhance safety for pupils, when interest (on such an issue) is growing.”

Anonymous Coward says:


RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification, a technology that uses tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance. RFID “spy chips” have been hidden in the packaging of Gillette razor products and in other products you might buy at a local Wal-Mart, Target, or Tesco – and they are already being used to spy on people.

Above: Magnified image of actual tag found in Gillette Mach3 razor blades. Each tiny chip is hooked up to an antenna that picks up electromagnetic energy beamed at it from a reader device. When it picks up the energy, the chip sends back its unique identification number to the reader device, allowing the item to be remotely identified. Spy chips can beam back information anywhere from a couple of inches to up to 20 or 30 feet away.

Some of the world’s largest product manufacturers have been plotting behind closed doors since 1999 to develop and commercialize this technology. If they are not opposed, their plan is to use these remote-readable spy chips to replace the bar code.

RFID tags are NOT an “improved bar code” as the proponents of the technology would like you to believe. RFID technology differs from bar codes in three important ways:

1. With today’s bar code technology, every can of Coke has the same UPC or bar code number as every other can (a can of Coke in Toronto has the same number as a can of Coke in Topeka). With RFID, each individual can of Coke would have a unique ID number which could be linked to the person buying it when they scan a credit card or a frequent shopper card (i.e., an “item registration system”).

2. Unlike a bar code, these chips can be read from a distance, right through your clothes, wallet, backpack or purse — without your knowledge or consent — by anybody with the right reader device. In a way, it gives strangers x-ray vision powers to spy on you, to identify both you and the things you’re wearing and carrying.

3. Unlike the bar code, RFID could be bad for your health. RFID supporters envision a world where RFID reader devices are everywhere – in stores, in floors, in doorways, on airplanes — even in the refrigerators and medicine cabinets of our own homes. In such a world, we and our children would be continually bombarded with electromagnetic energy. Researchers do not know the long-term health effects of chronic exposure to the energy emitted by these reader devices.

Many huge corporations, including Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble, and Wal-Mart, have begun experimenting with RFID spy chip technology. Gillette is leading the pack, and recently placed an order for up to 500 million RFID tags from a company called “Alien Technology” (we kid you not). These big companies envision a day when every single product on the face of the planet is tracked with RFID spy chips!

As consumers we have no way of knowing which packages contain these chips. While some chips are visible inside a package (see our pictures of Gillette spy chips), RFID chips can be well hidden. For example they can be sewn into the seams of clothes, sandwiched between layers of cardboard, molded into plastic or rubber, and integrated into consumer package design.

This technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Now RFID spy chips can even be printed, meaning the dot on a printed letter “i” could be used to track you. In addition, the tell-tale copper antennas commonly seen attached to RFID chips can now be printed with conductive ink, making them nearly imperceptible. Companies are even experimenting with making the product packages themselves serve as antennas.

As you can see, it could soon be virtually impossible for a consumer to know whether a product or package contains an RFID spy chip. For this reason, CASPIAN (the creator of this web site) is proposing federal labeling legislation, the RFID Right to Know Act, which would require complete disclosures on any consumer products containing RFID devices.

We believe the public has an absolute right to know when they are interacting with technology that could affect their health and privacy.

Don’t you?

Join us. Let’s fight this battle before big corporations track our every move.

Fight Back!

by Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN Founder says:

Re: Re: Re: RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere

RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere

Expect big changes

“In 5-10 years, whole new ways of doing things will emerge and gradually become commonplace. Expect big changes.” 1 – MIT’s Auto-ID Center, 2002

Supermarket cards and retail surveillance devices are merely the opening volley of the marketers’ war against consumers. If consumers fail to oppose these practices now, our long-term prospects may look like something from a dystopian science fiction novel.

A new consumer goods tracking system called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is poised to enter all of our lives, with profound implications for consumer privacy. RFID couples radio frequency (RF) identification technology with highly miniaturized computers that enable products to be identified and tracked at any point along the supply chain. 2

The system could be applied to almost any physical item, from ballpoint pens to toothpaste, which would carry their own unique information in the form of an embedded chip.3 The chip sends out an identification signal allowing it to communicate with reader devices and other products embedded with similar chips. 4

Analysts envision a time when the system will be used to identify and track every item produced on the planet. 5

A number for every item on the planet

RFID employs a numbering scheme called EPC (for “electronic product code”) which can provide a unique ID for any physical object in the world. 6 The EPC is intended to replace the UPC bar code used on products today. 7

Unlike the bar code, however, the EPC goes beyond identifying product categories–it actually assigns a unique number to every single item that rolls off a manufacturing line. 8 For example, each pack of cigarettes, individual can of soda, light bulb or package of razor blades produced would be uniquely identifiable through its own EPC number. 9

Once assigned, this number is transmitted by a radio frequency ID tag (RFID) in or on the product. 10 These tiny tags, predicted by some to cost less than 1 cent each by 2004, 11 are “somewhere between the size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust.” 12 They are to be built directly into food, clothes, drugs, or auto-parts during the manufacturing process. 13

Receiver or reader devices are used to pick up the signal transmitted by the RFID tag. Proponents envision a pervasive global network of millions of receivers along the entire supply chain — in airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers, warehouses, retail stores, and in the home. 14 This would allow for seamless, continuous identification and tracking of physical items as they move from one place to another, 15 enabling companies to determine the whereabouts of all their products at all times. 16

Steven Van Fleet, an executive at International Paper, looks forward to the prospect. “We’ll put a radio frequency ID tag on everything that moves in the North American supply chain,” he enthused recently. 17

The ultimate goal is for RFID to create a “physically linked world” 18 in which every item on the planet is numbered, identified, catalogued, and tracked. And the technology exists to make this a reality. Described as “a political rather than a technological problem,” creating a global system “would . . . involve negotiation between, and consensus among, different countries.” 19 Supporters are aiming for worldwide acceptance of the technologies needed to build the infrastructure within the next few years. 20

The implications of RFID

“Theft will be drastically reduced because items will report when they are stolen, their smart tags also serving as a homing device toward their exact location.” 21 – MIT’s Auto-ID Center

Since the Auto-ID Center’s founding at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999, it has moved forward at remarkable speed. The center has attracted funding from some of the largest consumer goods manufacturers in the world, and even counts the Department of Defense among its sponsors. 22 In a mid-2001 pilot test with Gillette, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart, the center wired the entire city of Tulsa, Oklahoma with radio-frequency equipment to verify its ability to track RFID equipped packages. 23

Though many RFID proponents appear focused on inventory and supply chain efficiency, others are developing financial and consumer applications that, if adopted, will have chilling effects on consumers’ ability to escape the oppressive surveillance of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers. Of course, government and law enforcement will be quick to use the technology to keep tabs on citizens, as well.

The European Central Bank is quietly working to embed RFID tags in the fibers of Euro banknotes by 2005. 24 The tag would allow money to carry its own history by recording information about where it has been, thus giving governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally “follow the money” in every transaction. 25 If and when RFID devices are embedded in banknotes, the anonymity that cash affords in consumer transactions will be eliminated.

Hitachi Europe wants to supply the tags. The company has developed a smart tag chip that–at just 0.3mm square and as thin as a human hair — can easily fit inside of a banknote. 26 Mass-production of the new chip will start within a year. 27

Consumer marketing applications will decimate privacy

“Radio frequency is another technology that supermarkets are already using in a number of places throughout the store. We now envision a day where consumers will walk into a store, select products whose packages are embedded with small radio frequency UPC codes, and exit the store without ever going through a checkout line or signing their name on a dotted line.” 28 – Jacki Snyder, Manager of Electronic Payments for Supervalu (Supermarkets), Inc., and Chair, Food Marketing Institute Electronic Payments Committee

RFID would expand marketers’ ability to monitor individuals’ behavior to undreamt of extremes. With corporate sponsors like Wal-Mart, Target, the Food Marketing Institute, Home Depot, and British supermarket chain Tesco, as well as some of the world’s largest consumer goods manufacturers including Proctor and Gamble, Phillip Morris, and Coca Cola 29 it may not be long before RFID-based surveillance tags begin appearing in every store-bought item in a consumer’s home.

According to a video tour of the “Home of the Future” and “Store of the Future” sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, applications could include shopping carts that automatically bill consumers’ accounts (cards would no longer be needed to link purchases to individuals), refrigerators that report their contents to the supermarket for re-ordering, and interactive televisions that select commercials based on the contents of a home’s refrigerator. 30

Now that shopper cards have whetted their appetite for data, marketers are no longer content to know who buys what, when, where, and how. As incredible as it may seem, they are now planning ways to monitor consumers’ use of products within their very homes. RFID tags coupled with indoor receivers installed in shelves, floors, and doorways, 31 could provide a degree of omniscience about consumer behavior that staggers the imagination.

Consider the following statements by John Stermer, Senior Vice President of eBusiness Market Development at ACNielsen:

“[After bar codes] [t]he next ‘big thing’ [was] [f]requent shopper cards. While these did a better job of linking consumers and their purchases, loyalty cards were severely limited…consider the usage, consumer demographic, psychographic and economic blind spots of tracking data…. [S]omething more integrated and holistic was needed to provide a ubiquitous understanding of on- and off-line consumer purchase behavior, attitudes and product usage. The answer: RFID (radio frequency identification) technology…. In an industry first, RFID enables the linking of all this product information with a specific consumer identified by key demographic and psychographic markers….Where once we collected purchase information, now we can correlate multiple points of consumer product purchase with consumption specifics such as the how, when and who of product use.” 32

Marketers aren’t the only ones who want to watch what you do in your home. Enter again the health surveillance connection. Some have suggested that pill bottles in medicine cabinets be tagged with RFID devices to allow doctors to remotely monitor patient compliance with prescriptions. 33

While developers claim that RFID technology will create “order and balance” in a chaotic world, 34 even the center’s executive director, Kevin Ashton, acknowledges there’s a “Brave New World” feel to the technology. 35 He admits, for example, that people might balk at the thought of police using RFID to scan the contents of a car’s trunk without needing to open it. 36 The Center’s co-director, Sanjay E. Sarma, has already begun planning strategies to counter the public backlash he expects the system will encounter. 37

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere

Pretty big if Mike. Gee I can just go down to Wal-Mart (irony intended) and buy the $3000 reader. Yeah, no problem. And gee I can just turn them off. Have you even freakin looked at how they are implemented? There is NO turning off for the tags that are being produced. They are miniscule chips that are hard wired to straight loop antennas. The passive mode ones don’t require power, they get it from the RF that is pulsed by the reader. So Mike, tell me how I’m suposed to turn one of these off when it’s embedded in the sole of my tennis shoes or sewn into my clothes. Care to place a bet on how much the RFID industry would resist/lobby/lie, cheat, kill to keep any regulations requiring the ability to turn them off from being legislated?

James Mata (user link) says:


ZombieWire RFID world News
The Blog is all everything you need to know about RFID that everyone is

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
RFID The Perfect Storm
By James Mata
Zombie Wire RFID World News
November 26 2004

We the consumers are at a brink in life where we will move from the simple task at the market place to purchase supplies for home, office, motor home and others as you can imagine. We walk in the store and purchase these items and hand down cash or card for the items scanned using the barcode system. Seems pretty simple however none threatening to your privacy. However these times have come to an end. You might as well say it is at your door right now, but 90 percent of all consumers are non- aware of this fact. This reason is that if that percentage knew of this fact then the process would stop in its tracks because of what is behind the new movement and normal people would not want it to continue with this.

Wal-Mart the ?super power? monster store found a new direction in how they will run their shop and being so they informed the supply chain around the world to make it so with all products purchased by Wal-Mart. Having mandated the supply chained complied and this set off the shot heard around the business world. All retail competitors had to follow the lead in order to compete. The mandate is that all items sold via Wal-Mart will have a Radio Frequency Identification chip or in simple terms RFID chip implanted in all products sold.What is an RFID?

What is RFID?Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify individual items. There are several methods of identifying objects using RFID, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a product, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag).

AT this time as the Trojan horse at the door consequently there is nothing we can do about it because the gears are in motion; however, we need to learn everything we can about the RFID movement to maintain our privacy rights. You will not be able to ?sell? any products without the RFID as you see in the barcode today. This RFID chip will go home with you and one day your home will be filled up with RFID chips. How would you feel if your home items were public knowledge from a certain book you have to what style and size under pants? You ask how that may become public awareness. Theoretically speaking if a van pulled out side your home with a RFID transponder, there is way for that person in the van to inventory your private life, and who knows what would take place once that knowledge is out. You ever heard the saying ?keep and honest man honest: approach? Think about this!

Likewise, the RFID market has not stopped here and it will continue to transpire to greater levels beyond our comprehension. There is a RFID chip out now called the Verichip. This Verichip is imbedded in the human body. This Verichip may store your Visa Card, bank debit card and social security and other information that takes the place of your purse.

The perfect storm: In theory, what will become of the Verichip by means of how we see progress continue to unfold? Will the Verichip be mandate as the RFID chip is mandate for all products you buy or sell?

I will leave you with this ?Buyer Beware”

Biometrix (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 STOP RFID NOW !

We consumers are at a point in life where we will move from the simple task at the market place of purchasing supplies for home, office, motor home or where ever else. We walk into the store and purchase our items, using cash or card to pay for the scanned items, under the UPC (Universal Product Code) system, commonly referred to as the bar-code. It seems simple enough and not threatening to our privacy, right?

Well, that first step in the times to come is now about to give way to the next step by a system that could later be used not only as a marketing tool, but as a device used by governments to keep track of and control the lives of their citizens. In fact, you might say this Trojan Horse, containing big brother and all of his friends, is knocking at the door right now trying to get a foot in, and it’s very likely that at least 70 percent of consumers worldwide don’t even know it.

Could it be that if those who are unaware knew what lies at the end of this road, this atrocity could be stopped in it’s tracks? Because of the nature of the beast within, it stands to reason that consumers would not want to allow whats in store to take place.

Wal-Mart, the “super power” monster store, has found a new direction in how they will run their conglomeration, and have accordingly informed their global supply chain for the purpose of forcing cooperation concerning this new method for all products bought by and for Wal-Mart’s Corporation. Having so mandated, the suppliers complied, firing the shot that is now being heard around the business world: All retail competitors will now have to follow Wal-Mart’s new high-tech lead just to be able to compete.

The mandate is that all items sold by Wal-Mart will now have a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip implanted in all products they sell.

What is an RFID?

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify individual items. There are several methods of identifying objects using RFID, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a product, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (called an RFID transponder, or an RFID tag).

Soon, as we see with the bar-code, no one will be able to buy or sell any products without the RFID. This chip will go home with consumers and one day our homes with products containing these RFID chips.

Why should we be concerned?

At this time it seems that there is nothing we can do about this Trojan horse banging at the door, but we can and need to learn everything possible about the RFID movement in order to be able to maintain our Constitutional right to privacy.

Many individuals are apathetic about the RFID chips, chalking it up to technology while not realizing why they should be concerned. How would these individuals feel if their home items were made public knowledge? Anything, from that steamy romance novel sitting on their nightstand to the style and size under pants they wear can be found and monitored.

Hypothetically speaking, if a vehicle with a RFID transponder were to pull up out side ones home, those inside that vehicle would have electronic access to the entire inventory of the private lives of that houses occupants, and who knows what could take place once that knowledge leaked out, especially into the wrong hands. We have all heard the saying, “keep and honest man honest; this certainly gives us something to think about.

The RFID market has not stopped here; it will continue to transpire to greater levels beyond our comprehension. There is a RFID chip out now called the Verichip. This chip is implanted into the human body, and may store your Visa Card, bank debit card, and social security and other private information that takes the place of your purse.

The perfect storm: What will become of the Verichip by means of how we see progress continue to unfold? Will the Verichip soon be required to be placed in all people as the RFID chip will be required for all products marketed?

Let the buyer be aware.

Get More RFID World News at

James (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Under The Radar Katherine Albrecht's Sweat of labo

There is a short story @ ZombieWire about Katherine Albrecht’s first book coming out. The book is called Spychips : How Government and Major Corporations Are Tracking Your Every Move (Hardcover)
by Katherine Albrecht, Liz McIntyre

I already ordered one. She has been working so hard with few funds so this should help our cause with battling RFID impact.

steven jenson (user link) says:


RFID World News “The Zombie Wire”

Zombie Wire RFID World News’ main objective is to reach out to the consumer and educate them on RFID and how it will infringe in their private lives.

We would say that 90% of all consumers do not know of the RFID movement. The question are: why are there as many as 90% of the consumers thus far in to the RFID movement unaware of what is taking place behind closed doors? What is there to hide? If informed of the RFID mandate, would they the consumer refute or conform? These and other inquiries need to be approached now before the mandate stands insurmountable.

Get informed now on the RFID movement at Zombie Wire RFID World NewsIf you want to be a part of Zombie Wire and have something to ad: Contact Zombie Wire for more information.

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