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Eye-Fi to SD Association: our intellectual property is not available  
Thursday, January 12, 2012 | by Rob Galbraith
Earlier this week, the SD Association announced an add-on to the SD specification, called the Wireless LAN SD standard, which provides SD, SDHC and SDXC card makers a framework for incorporating Wi-Fi wireless functions into their products. At the same time, Toshiba put forth its intention to soon ship a wireless-capable SDHC card, called FlashAir, that adheres to the new standard.

Eye-Fi has been making SD and SDHC cards with embedded Wi-Fi for several years, as well as building a portfolio of patents to protect the processes they've invented, so we asked Eye-Fi's Ziv Gillat what role, if any, Eye-Fi played in the development of the Wireless LAN SD standard.

The answer back was in the form of an official company statement, one with a clear message: Eye-Fi believes the capabilities outlined in the Wireless LAN SD standard may tread on their intellectual property, Eye-Fi has not agreed to license or otherwise contribute their patented processes to the SD Association and that "you can draw your own conclusions as to what this means" about the company's intentions going forward. Which is meant to suggest, without actually saying it, that Eye-Fi is strongly considering a legal response.

Here is Eye-Fi's complete statement:

Eye-Fi is a member of the SDA [SD Association]. The SDA has prematurely announced a change to the SDA standard under its own standardization adoption policies. Eye-Fi has not contributed or licensed any of its patented intellectual property to the SDA and it has no plans to do so. We cannot get into any more details on this matter but you can draw your own conclusions as to what this means.

On its website, Eye-Fi lists two U.S. patents, 7702821 and 8014529. They have several more filed in the U.S. as well, and may also have patents granted and/or filed in other jurisdictions. One of the U.S. patents covers a fundamental element of the wireless transmission of digital images from a storage device. Based on this patent alone, it's hard to imagine that a competing card maker could implement similar functionality and not run afoul of Eye-Fi if they attempted to sell their wireless card in the U.S. The same would hold true for other jurisdictions in which Eye-Fi may hold similar patents.

If Eye-Fi's claims regarding the SD Association's actions are correct, then what at first seemed like an innocuous addition to the SD spec could soon descend into a brouhaha between several industry players.

The SD Association was formed twelve years ago by Panasonic, SanDisk and Toshiba to manage and evolve the Secure Digital memory card format. It now has about 1000 member companies, including Eye-Fi.
Related articles  
Related coverage of this topic includes:
  • Eye-Fi issues firmware v5.0008 for X2 cards (March 21, 2012)
  • Eye-Fi CEO says patented technology violated by Wireless LAN SD standard (January 20, 2012)
  • Eye-Fi issues firmware update for X2 cards (January 11, 2012)
  • Embedded Wi-Fi functionality now part of SD standard (January 9, 2012)
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