Q&A: Eye-Fi CEO Yuval Koren Discusses His SDA Complaints

Eye-Fi CEO Yuval Koren
Last week, Eye-Fi CEO Yuval Koren posted a statement on his company's blog claiming that the SD Association, a standardization body responsible for reviewing and approving storage-card specifications, did not follow its own processes in announcing the new iSDIO spec for Wi-Fi-enabled SD Cards.

The in-card technology that the iSDIO spec describes is similar to Eye-Fi's own wireless-card functionality, and Koren says that his company was not offered the opportunity to produce intellectual-property claims before the specification was announced, in conflict with the SDA's own guidelines and procedures.

Following last week's initial article on the Eye-Fi-versus-SDA flap, Koren provided the following answers via email regarding his company's points of contention with the SDA's announcement of the iSDIO specification.

PCWorld: Would the proposed iSDIO specification essentially replicate the wireless-sharing technology found in Eye-Fi cards?

Yuval Koren: In our analysis, significant parts of the iSDIO specification overlap with essential Eye-Fi IP [intellectual property]. We have responded to the SDA with these comments, as we mentioned in our blog post.

PCW: One company, Trek 2000, is already billing its wireless SD Card as iSDIO-compliant. Have there been any direct conversations with Trek 2000 about licensing the technology?

Koren: There have been no direct conversations with Trek 2000 about licensing Eye-Fi's technology.

PCW: Has Eye-Fi received any formal request from the SDA to license the technology found in its own wireless cards?

Koren: Eye-Fi licenses its technology to ten leading camera manufacturers, and to SanDisk. There was no formal request from the SDA for licensing Eye-Fi's technology into iSDIO.

PCW: Is Eye-Fi part of the SDA Executive Members board, which will vote on adopting the spec? If not, do you fear that the spec will be voted on without the SDA's standard process taking place?

Koren: Eye-Fi is not an Executive Member of the SDA, so it will not vote on adopting the specification. We are very concerned about the SDA's disregard for its own process.

PCW: How long has Eye-Fi known about the SDA's efforts to standardize iSDIO? At what point, if any, was Eye-Fi contacted about using its patented technology as part of the spec?

Koren: Eye-Fi, along with all other SDA members, received notification on November 28, setting the review window of 60 days to expire on January 27. The SDA announced the new specification on January 9. Eye-Fi did not receive any formal request from the SDA about its technology.

PCW: Do you see this as a case of bullying? I'm unfamiliar with the inner workings of the SDA and its members--would the spec be pushed along by an intermediary body within the SDA, or could a group of SDA member companies be lobbying for its adoption in order to gain competitive advantage?

Koren: We are of course not privy to internal conversation within the SDA or amongst its members. Having recently spoken with several other SDA member companies, though, it is clear that we were not the only party surprised by this announcement.

PCW: If iSDIO is adopted as a spec without the process as outlined by the SDA, what are Eye-Fi's legal options at that point?

Koren: If [the] process is not followed, Eye-Fi has many legal options, which it is evaluating.

PCW: If Eye-Fi's proprietary wireless-card technology is opened up as a specification, what impact will that have on the camera industry? Will existing Eye-Fi cards and Wi-Fi-enabled cameras work with the spec?

Koren: The proposed specification attempts to define two distinct card types--a "Type-W" card and a "Type-D" card. If this specification were to move forward, we are concerned that both consumers and those in the camera industry may be uncertain about which of these types is better for them, and/or which of these is supported by any given device. Being Eye-Fi connected will not prepare a camera to work within either flavor of the specification.

PCW: Would Eye-Fi cards, as they exist now, be compatible with the iSDIO spec?

Koren: We are still studying the specification in all its details.

PCW: Is your main point of contention the announcement of the spec itself without due process, the drive to standardize Eye-Fi's proprietary tech, or a combination of those and other factors?

Koren: Attempting to standardize this technology without involving the longstanding market leader and then announcing the spec without due process leads us to conclude that the SDA may be placing the needs of some of its members ahead of the interests of the industry and of consumers at large.

PCW: Has what happened thus far had a negative impact on your willingness to license any patented technologies essential to the proposed iSDIO spec?

Koren: Eye-Fi will continue to evaluate its options, and will act in the best interests of its customers, industry partners, and shareholders in pursuing this matter.

In Video: Eye-Fi in Dispute with SD Association Over Wireless SD Card Spec

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