Previous news story    Next news story

Eye-Fi contests SD Association's Wireless LAN standard

By dpreview staff on Jan 20, 2012 at 18:14 GMT

The legality of the SD Association's Wireless LAN standard for SD cards is being challenged by wireless SD maker Eye-Fi. The company says the standard, announced at CES, uses elements of its intellectual property that it hasn't agreed to license. 'Essential Eye-Fi patented technology would be violated by anyone implementing this draft specification.' Eye-Fi says the SD Association's own process for approving the standard has not been completed and the draft standard should not have been announced.

Eye-Fi points out that it has spent 'tens of millions of dollars' in researching and developing its product and that it has multiple patents essential to the current draft specification.

Press Release

The SDA’s iSDIO specification and standards process

Several years ago, Eye-Fi’s founding team realized that capturing photos or video is just the beginning, and that in an increasingly connected world, the true magic is in sharing.

We invested tens of millions of dollars and several years to create unique technology that lets people wirelessly transfer photos and videos directly from their camera and mobile devices.

Last week, the SD Association (SDA) announced that a draft Wireless LAN specification had been adopted as a new standard. This was a flat out misrepresentation. As a matter of fact, under the SDA’s own rules, this was not possible. SDA members – and we are one – are allowed 60 days in which to respond with claims to patented intellectual property and plans around licensing that IP to the SDA. Should essential IP be presented during this process, and not offered for license, the SDA should revise the specification and begin the review cycle again. After this process, the SDA Executive Members have to vote on adopting the specification.

Not only has the membership’s intellectual property disclosure window not closed, the Executive Members have also yet to vote on its adoption.

When we protested the action, the SDA’s executive director replied “the SD Association has often made announcements during the IP Review Period because once this phase of the process has been achieved the only thing that could possibly change is the licensing and not the technical details.”

This week, still in advance of the SDA-provided deadline, we disclosed our patented intellectual property to the SDA, detailing multiple Eye-Fi patents essential to the current SDA draft specification.

There is a process for the establishment of this kind of specification, and that process wasn’t respected. Any company trying to claim that it is the first to adopt this specification is taking on the mantle of a standard that doesn’t exist.

Currently, 10 top camera manufacturers work with us as part of the Eye-Fi connected program; dozens of leading photo-related sites connect to our service. It’s through these longstanding relationships that we’ve become the center of wireless connectivity among consumers, camera makers and photo-related sites.

The intellectual property at the core of this digital imaging revolution is our business. It’s what Eye-Fi is. And as currently written, essential Eye-Fi patented technology would be violated by anyone implementing this draft specification.

We respect the process as established by the SDA and we call upon the SDA to do the same.

Comments

Total comments: 41
StevenE
By StevenE (Jan 6, 2013)

EyeFi is worse than worthless ... it will eat up all of your time trying to get the buggy junk to work and leave you frustrated .

0 upvotes
kff
By kff (Jan 25, 2012)

I think that a good direction is wi-fi for sending data, external viewfinder/display and remote controll ... Can SD (C Fetc.) wi-fi solution offer all of these features ?

We would get these posibilities by camera body ... when producers of camera will wake up :)

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
kelpdiver
By kelpdiver (Jan 25, 2012)

IP be damned, I'm on board with the first guys to make a working CF solution.

0 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (Jan 23, 2012)

Suck !!!!
You want to drain customers money

Apple tried to do the monopoly with iPhone and iPad, but nothing can stop Samsung Galaxy and HTC ...

1 upvote
il_alexk
By il_alexk (Jan 22, 2012)

They have too patents.

1.The latest one describes a generic storage device that SD, CF, etc-shaped that can send multimedia files to the internet. It is too generic and was actually filed after they introduced the product to the market, in other words after the idea became publicly available. The validity of the patent can be easily disputed in court

2. The older one is about configuring a wireless device over wireless network. It is too specific and has nothing to do with the SD Card with WiFi. It just describes a novelty configuration protocol. It is possible to build a similar device which will require configuring the network by plugging the SD card directly into a PC, for example. Therefore, this patent will not be able stop competitors from building the same device.

Anyway, even a useless patent still has its monetary value and however it rarely exceeds the cost of the legal steps required to nullify it.

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Jan 22, 2012)

Nobody mentions that both "patents" will work equally bad in metal-clad devices, because metal shilelds EM emission. In the meantime, http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/05/16/council-of-europe-seeks-to-ban-wifi-wireless-networks-and-mobiles-in-schools.html ...

0 upvotes
mbloof
By mbloof (Jan 21, 2012)

There's a Wifi Spec and a SD card Spec, simply joining the two does not make a Eye-Fi card - the 'secrete sauce' is the embedded host daemons (and controller) that drive the radio and file transfer functionality.

It matters not if their solution is viable or junk, its a matter of if their patents are being infringed and if they are valid or not.

Being the 1st to do something does not always yield valid patents.

0 upvotes
danielsonkin
By danielsonkin (Jan 21, 2012)

Legal matters aside, my EyeFi is fantastic. Not only does it work on the usual wireless networks, it creates it's own network when I am up in the mountains. To me, that's total magic! I like the idea of being able to upload immediately to my iPad and processing in Snapseed and then uploading from there to Smugmug; talk about unlimited capacity. What I don't get, is why would having the wireless capacity within card be superior or preferable to having it within the camera itself.

0 upvotes
photonius
By photonius (Jan 21, 2012)

P&S cameras are already coming out with WiFi, smart phones with cameras have WiFi, GPS is already in the first cameras. Perhaps in 10 years Eye-Fi will be dead, it's main use at the end for older cameras that didn't have WiFi yet.

2 upvotes
billorg
By billorg (Jan 21, 2012)

Eye Fi is JUNK! I am glad there will be a standard finally, then we can send our images from camera to ipad EVERY TIME and not fool with all their junk!

6 upvotes
Louis Dallara
By Louis Dallara (Jan 21, 2012)

agree, I have a Eye Fi and its junk, doesn't work on phone or anything usefull, I should sell it.

0 upvotes
PhotoKhan
By PhotoKhan (Jan 21, 2012)

It is irrelevant if you find it "junk"...(myself, for instance, I find it great and am ever-so-grateful to what Eye-Fi accomplished).

If the SD Association (SDA) wants to use IP patents belonging to Eye-Fi within the specifications, they should either pay Eye-Fi or redraft the standard. Period.

PK

2 upvotes
thang
By thang (Jan 22, 2012)

It appears Eye Fi is going down the path of Polaroid and look at what happened to the later. Sure hope Eye Fi will not win this battle. It would be nice to have options!

1 upvote
Franka T.L.
By Franka T.L. (Jan 21, 2012)

I wonder why they don't just stick with the established IEEE 801 .. neither SD Association nor Eye-Fi actually establish Wi-Fi. Its a well established WAN protocol, and how hard is it just to fellow the standard literally.

2 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Jan 21, 2012)

IMO Eye-fi's case should be thrown out in the initial hearing. It's not like standards are just formulated out of nowhere. They've had ages to see what was going to go into the draft and to work with the SD people. Waiting until now is malicious and doesn't really show an earenst inent to defend their IP as the mainpurpose of the suit. Seems to me the main purpose is to disrupt the SD associations launch, sow FUD, clean up in court/licensing and then maybe to protect their IP. Despicable.

1 upvote
GodSpeaks
By GodSpeaks (Jan 21, 2012)

Here we go...
The lawyers will be the ONLY winners.

7 upvotes
Miguel Fonseca
By Miguel Fonseca (Jan 20, 2012)

Eye Fi is terrible. Spent the money to install it on my Oly XZ1, and it never worked. Complete waste of time and money (almost 100 Euro). How can they claim patents for a technology that doesn't work?

Check this link: http://support.eye.fi/cameras/olympus/xz-1

So, according to Eye-fi, It should work OK. Instead, it is painfully slow, I mean slow measured in hours, not minutes, and it makes the camera freeze, and the battery overheat to extreme temperatures.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
MisoL
By MisoL (Jan 20, 2012)

Eye-Fi is crap. It sends all credentials to Eye-Fi servers. You can't setup it with FTP server on private LAN and transfer was unusable slow. Worst spent 130 EUR.

2 upvotes
thinkfat
By thinkfat (Jan 20, 2012)

I'm not getting it. It's not necessary for the SDA to have all essential IP covered in a license pool to release a standard. It has happened before, AT&T for example claims essential ip on the MPEG4 AVC standard, essential because they have patented Bi-predictive coding, which is part of AVC. Their patents are not in the pool that MPEG-LA offers for licensing. It's the same here, Eye-Fi can have essential IP and still choose to not license it through SDA.

Somebody in Eye-Fi has not understood that they are sitting on a gold mine if this new standard is adopted. On the contrary, this ballyhoo is certainly not helping their cause, if it scares away the potential implementors it will harm their revenue on royalties.

0 upvotes
maxnimo
By maxnimo (Jan 20, 2012)

Just a bit of info: All of our technology through the entire human history came from the following action... imitate and improve, and imitate and improve, and imitate and improve, and imitate and improve, and imitate and improve, and imitate and improve....

If it wasn't for "imitate and improve", we'd all still be living in caves.

4 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Jan 20, 2012)

Except that's only partially true. Since at least the 15th century some form of patent system has existed to ensure that the person putting in the time and money to invent something can't immediately be directly copied.

If nobody was able to profit from their efforts to improve, there would be little improvement to imitate.

8 upvotes
Felix E Klee
By Felix E Klee (Jan 21, 2012)

That patents are necessary for innovation is a common myth, spread by lawyers and bureaucrats who greatly profit from the intricate patent system. Also history is often portrayed falsely. Recommended reading:

Machlup, Fritz. “An Economic Review of the Patent System,”
Study No. 15, Subcomm. On Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights, Senate Comm. On the Judiciary, 85th Cong., 2d Sess. (Comm. Print 1958)

1 upvote
maxnimo
By maxnimo (Jan 22, 2012)

There are many ways to handle this better than the present patent system. One example: Any invention can be immediately used by anyone, but they have to pay 3% royalty to the inventor for the first 3 years of sales.

0 upvotes
raincoat
By raincoat (Jan 22, 2012)

Like Sony Trinitron. Back then CRT TVs were like round balls. Sony invented Trinitron, which was like a cylinder. Patent for 17yrs, and in those 17yrs there were no new CRT techs. Not only did Sony not work on improving Trinitron, they refused to license to anyone else, and enjoyed a huge markup on TVs and monitors.

The patent expires, and then in 2 months the "flat square" CRT was invented that was flatter than anything Sony had, then in less than another year the completely flat CRT was invented.

Soon after Sony filed for bankrupcy protection.

0 upvotes
dkadc
By dkadc (Mar 9, 2012)

raincoat spewed forth: "Soon after Sony filed for bankrupcy protection."

Trinitron used one electron beam instead of three, using an aperture grill instead of a shadow mask. Trinitron was a much brighter, more vivid picture.

The costs of developing Trinitron were huge and took years, so why shouldn't Sony be allowed to profit from it?

Zenith created the Flat Tension Mask in the mid 80's long before the Trinitron patents expired, the FTM was perfectly flat from corner to corner. I had one and the screen was just stunning, but also heavy and expensive.

Your timeline is fiction, as are your "facts."

0 upvotes
farrukh
By farrukh (Jan 20, 2012)

If this goes ahead, lucky Eye-Fi :)

0 upvotes
R Ortiz
By R Ortiz (Jan 20, 2012)

This is one of the few times where I agree with a patent claim.
This isn't just someone sitting around thinking "wouldn't it be cool if an SD card could do wi-fi?", then filing a patent and suing everyone. Eye-Fi had to invest a lot of money, time and effort researching, refining and developing this concept. This is what patents are really for.

3 upvotes
duartix
By duartix (Jan 20, 2012)

Well I didn't knew I could mix coffee and milk and file a patent.
Perhaps I should, I'd be rich in Portugal in no time...

0 upvotes
mark murphy
By mark murphy (Jan 20, 2012)

I'm afraid this really is an "only in America" thing !

1 upvote
jquagga
By jquagga (Jan 20, 2012)

The problem is they do it so poorly. I have tried multiple times over the years to utilize their products. Most recently a month ago (it was returned). They're buggy at best or fail to deliver promises. Some of this are indeed technological limitations however their software is just terrible.

Now all of that said, the SD card folks had to know the Eye-Fi was going to present a legal challenge to this. They have to since a competitor with an open specification and the potential to have software that actually works would devastate Eye-Fi.

The long term solution is Wifi or GPS in the cameras. I want the GPS for Geotagging; Wifi or Bluetooth would be a plus.

1 upvote
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (Jan 21, 2012)

Although implementation details are certainly patentable, it is difficult to argue that the concept of making anything talk 802.11 wireless is not SEP (standard engineering practice). I also have to agree that EyeFi is not a great implementation -- by design, it's too limited. For example, Linux isn't really supported, although last year I was finally able to get an EyeFi card efficiently downloading files to my Linux boxes. I still can't use an EyeFi to wirelessly receive commands to control a PowerShot running CHDK.

Initially, it might not have been practical to support more general interactions even though the SOAP/HTTP protocol used theoretically could. The question is if EyeFi will take the lead in advancing the technology or attempt to block the evolution of such devices. Unfortunately, it looks like we now know the answer. Pitty. I think EyeFi's leading position easily could have been maintained as SDA grows the market, but not this way.

2 upvotes
duartix
By duartix (Jan 20, 2012)

This is the kind of action that only triggers one reaction from me:
"Never, but never will I buy an Eye-Fi SD card."
They had the nerve to charge you extra for transmitting RAW and now they want money for joining two things they didn't invent.
I'll buy double the card space and keep changing them, thanks...
...but No, thanks!

1 upvote
duartix
By duartix (Jan 20, 2012)

Sorry! I said double the capacity?
No, actually for the price of the 8GB Class 6 Eye-Fi, I can buy 4x 16GB Samsung PLUS SDHC which is rated Class 10 but benchmarks 15MB/s at writing data, ie it's twice as fast and 8X the capacity!
Are you still in for Eye-Fi?

2 upvotes
Dirtistasty2
By Dirtistasty2 (Jan 20, 2012)

A lot of the best inventions and patents are the ones that combine several existing designs to synthesize something more worthwhile.

0 upvotes
Graystar
By Graystar (Jan 20, 2012)

When I heard about the wireless spec, I kinda figured Eye-Fi wouldn't go down without a fight. They should get paid for what they invented.

Then again, they didn't invent the SD card, and they didn't invent Wi-Fi. You can hardly call connecting two existing technologies together "inventing" something new.

2 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Jan 20, 2012)

That rather depends on exactly how they get the two to work together.

3 upvotes
Graystar
By Graystar (Jan 20, 2012)

Probably similar to the way Wi-Fi printers are connected (which have SD card slots and have been around since before Eye-Fi existed as a company.)

0 upvotes
jvkelley
By jvkelley (Jan 20, 2012)

If you're curious about what exactly Eye-fi patented, you can find their patents online pretty easily. They're difficult to read though.

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Jan 20, 2012)

Since the granting of a patent requires that the invention be original and non-obvious, it's probably not the same as the example you quote. That would count as 'prior art' and therefore be unpatentable.

2 upvotes
Graystar
By Graystar (Jan 20, 2012)

You say that as if such a thing has never happened before, when in fact the high tech industry (especially relating to software) is rife with such examples.

0 upvotes
powerbook duo
By powerbook duo (Jan 21, 2012)

Wifi PC-card (PCMCIA) and to a smaller extent, compact flash card for handheld PCs had been around since forever, you could argue that compact flash was a flash memory format, therefore prior-art to wifi SD card

0 upvotes
Total comments: 41