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IBM Patent

Who owns the rights to the Powered USB technology?

(Note: The following information is the interpretation of PoweredUSB.org. PoweredUSB.org has done its best to interpret the content of these patents. PoweredUSB.org is presenting its interpretation as a service to those viewing this data on the PoweredUSB.org website.)

IBM owns three patents related to PoweredUSB technology.

5884086 PoweredUSB Power Management
This patent deals with using a messaging and data signaling system from the peripheral to the host allowing the peripheral to request certain voltages and current requirements from the host side interface. To our knowledge, no users of PoweredUSB are currently using this methodology for power control or voltage selection

6334793 Host Side Connector
This patent deals with the design of the host side PoweredUSB connector.

Recently, IBM and FCI signed an agreement where FCI can sell these connectors unencumbered to it's customers. Read a quote from FCI.

IBM owns the rights to this host side Connector.

If this connector is sourced from other companies, it is recommended that the manufacturer be contacted and determine if they have reached an arrangement with IBM on the licensing of this product.

Note: Just because a user purchases a licensed host side connector, it does not mean that the user is free to use this connector in a host side system architecture.

6086430 PoweredUSB System Architecture
This patent focuses on the overall system architecture of PoweredUSB. The specific claims of this patent are from the perspective of the host side controller.

This is the patent that IBM is licensing to users of this technology as part of it's agreement with the Retail Standards group ARTS.

From a historical perspective, the ARTS committee (which IBM is a member) decided that USB with extra power should be the next retail POS connectivity standard.

IBM working with FCI/Berg, developed a host side connector that met the requirements. IBM subsequently patented certain aspects of PoweredUSB technology and then to the surprise of ARTS demanded that users of this intellectual property pay a one-time fee of $5,000.00. ( A copy of this licence agreement from IBM can be downloaded here.)

This fee covers a single tier distribution. This means that if a manufacturer builds a product with this host side PCB mount connector, they can sell it to an end-user. However, if the manufacturer sells it to a systems integrator and the systems integrator sells it to the end-user, the system integrator must also pay the one time fee. It is also retail vertical specific.

Companies like NCR, HP, Fujitsu and CyberData have cross licensing or royalty based agreements in place that allow multiply tier distribution without encumbrances.

If you look at the line item detail of the claims, it would appear that implementation of PoweredUSB as currently being built by the major POS manufacturers may not require licensing with IBM.

However, it is the opinion of PoweredUSB.org that a manufacturer/integrator should attain a license from IBM on this patent. Even though individual claims of this patent might be disputed based on the particular implementation, customers using this product might infringe on IBM's claim that the product is combined in a different system configuration. Attaining a license, would all but guarantee that IBM would not take action against the manufacturer and most importantly, its customers that use PoweredUSB products.

This patent does not apply to the PoweredUSB cable or any of the peripheral side connections. This means that if you are a peripheral or PoweredUSB cable manufacturer, you are free from any encumbrances of the IBM patent.

System integrators and end-users need to validate that host side products containing the printed circuit board mounted PoweredUSB connector have the proper license to sell these products and understand the restrictions. It is best to query your supplier to make sure compliance with the IBM patent.

IBM may also be contacted directly at this location:

Scott O'Malia
Intellectual Property & Patent Licensing
Phone 914-765-4351
Email: omalia@us.ibm.com

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