||In a move sure to spur FireWire product development, eleven companies have announced a joint patent licensing arrangement that will greatly benefit all parties involved. The companies include Apple Computer, Inc., Compaq Computer Corporation, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic), Royal Philips Electronics, Sony Corporation, Toshiba Corporation and the newly joined companies Canon Inc., Intel Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, STMicroelectronics, and Zayante, Inc. These companies represent the major holders for patents related to FireWire implementation.
The agreement essentially brings patents held by these companies into a single portfolio that can then be licensed by manufacturers for a single fee. That fee is US$.25 per system that includes FireWire ports, regardless of the number of patents used or the number of FireWire ports implemented. This is a dramatic decrease from the US$1 per port per device (see "Apple To Charge 'Per-Port' Licensing On FireWire") that Apple originally announced it would charge for its own patents.
The consortium is also inviting other companies who hold relevant patents to join the group. According to Apple:
Other patent holders are encouraged to participate in the joint licensing program. Interested companies should submit a letter stating their interest and listing the patents that they own and believe to be essential. The period for submitting these documents is from May 15, 1999 to June 30, 1999 and interested patent holders should contact Gerrard Beeney, Esq., at Sullivan & Cromwell, at the phone number and address listed below:
Sullivan & Cromwell
125 Broad Street
New York, N.Y. 10004, USA.
A third party patent expert will determine whether each patent classifies as an essential patent. Once this process is completed, an independent third- party organization will serve as the licensing agent.
Congratulations to this consortium on a fantastic agreement!
The Mac Observer Spin: Now this is a great development for Apple and FireWire. This agreement DRAMATICALLY lowers the cost and complexity of FireWire licensing. This should in turn greatly increase the number of FireWire devices on the market.
What is good for FireWire is good for Apple and certainly good for future Mac owners, especially in the face of the effort from Intel and others to promote USB2 as a competing technology (which it is not). Ironically, Intel is one of the latest companies to join the joint effort, hedging their bets in a smart move.
Apple's current roadmap is very FireWire oriented and will remain so for the foreseeable future. It looks like this was a good decision.