Fieldbus squabble continues at ISA

A new fieldbus dispute sparked off at ISA Expo 2000 when a statement issued by Endress & Hauser claimed that patents held by Fisher-Rosemount are preventing the implementation of systems with Foundation Fieldbus instruments. Fisher Rosemount, not unsuprisingly, declared that these claims are false.

Diether Schaudel, Director and Chief Technology Officer of Endress+Hauser, Reinach, Switzerland, detailed his company’s difficulty in negotiating a successful patent licensing agreement with Fisher-Rosemount, in a press conference held at the ISA Expo. Fisher Rosemount apparently holds 22 patents surrounding the implementation of DeltaV and Foundation Fieldbus.

The dispute covers the series of patents called the Warrior patents after their inventor, Jay Warrior. The patents cover the ability to perform control calculations in field instruments. Endress+Hauser’s problem is not so much with the patents but with the conditions which appear to be necessary to license these patents.

These conditions may be a case of Fisher Rosemount’s lawyers being too anxious to protect their client’s intellectual property by inserting conditions that most reasonable companies would not accept.

John Berra, senior vice president of Emerson’s Process Group and chairman of the Fieldbus Foundation has supplied the text of his company’s official patent policy to independent advisory group ARC. Berra also published his reaction to the Endress+Hauser position. Clearly, the two statements do not agree, but is either party at fault, or is this a simple misunderstanding?’

Dick Caro, who is ARC’s senior vice president of Industrial Networks and Imbedded Solutions, analysed the situation by offer the advice: ‘Allow the use of Foundation Fieldbus technology for instruments that may operate with both Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus-PA, but only if they pass Foundation Fieldbus Registration testing.’

This course of action, says Caro, would be good for the users and good for the industry. After all, both protocols are accepted parts of the same IEC 61158 standard.

Caro, is currently the Chairman of the Fieldbus Standards Committees and is chairman of both the ISA SP50 and the IEC SC65C/WG6 Fieldbus committees. He has led the committee to completion of the operational portions of the Fieldbus standard which are now American National Standards. He still leads the efforts to pass the remaining portion of the standard internationally in the IEC where contention remains over the Data Link Layer.Caro recommends that both companies stop this latest ‘fieldbus war between otherwise friendly competitors’.

Fisher Rosemount, Caro suggests, should license the Warrior patents and any other relevant patent that it currently holds to implement Foundation Fieldbus without restrictions or time limits. The requirement for membership to Foundation Fieldbus should also be eliminated.

These actions will avoid the controversy over both membership and time limits and will save the need to test the validity of the Warrior patents in court and the great expense that this would incur.