NeoMedia, A.T. Cross in Pen-Scanner Deal

Pen manufacturer A. T. Cross is emerging as a surprising new player in the print-to-Web convergence field, signing its second deal to create barcode-reading pens.

Under the terms of a deal with NeoMedia Technologies, the Lincoln, Rhode Island.-based company obtains a non-exclusive license to manufacture and sell pen-based scanners using NeoMedia’s print-to-Web technologies.

The deal with Fort Myers, Fla.-based NeoMedia calls for Cross to pay a royalty per device to NeoMedia for license rights. Exact financial terms were not disclosed.

Last month, Cross inked a similar agreement with Dallas-based Digital:Convergence to launch its version of the product. Digital:Convergence already offered a barcode scanner that attached to a user’s PC; the deal with Cross allowed it to make technology that users could use away from the PC.

The Cross :Convergence pen, which can scan and store up to 300 bar codes/URLs, doubles as a normal pen. However, when run over a bar code printed in a print publication, ad, or on a consumer product, the pen will store a URL that can be visited later, when downloaded into a user’s PC.

“Although we cannot yet forecast the potential revenue to NeoMedia resulting from this license, we anticipate that Cross will be a leading supplier of print-to-Internet scanning devices and thus we expect this license to become lucrative,” said NeoMedia chairman and chief executive Charles Fritz.

Cross also recently appointed John Ruggieri to the post of president of the company’s Pen Computing Group. Riggieri, who also serves as senior vice president and chief financial officer for the company, will oversee what the company sees as “profitable growth opportunities in the area,” according to Cross’s president and CEO David Whalen.

“Cross remains committed to pursue, with our partners, the exciting opportunities we believe exist in pen computing,” Whalen said. “These opportunities … provide John and Cross a solid base from which to build a profitable pen computing business.”

Cross has not said how it plans to use the new patents with regard to the Cross:Convergence pen that it’s currently marketing.

Meanwhile, NeoMedia said it plans to continue licensing its patents as a major portion of its business.

“We will continue to seek innovative technology partners to help us foster an open and interoperating environment that encourages third-party development of applications,” Fritz said. “In the end, it’s the consumer who will benefit from open systems that employ high-quality, licensed device and software combinations.”

The space is becoming increasingly competitive. In addition to Cross and NeoMedia, Oakland, Calif.’s findtheDot manufacturers similar print-to-Web technologies and is seeking to make headway with its product.

Another firm, Tualatin, Ore.-based Digimarc, has developed convergence software for use with digital cameras, while Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.’s BarPoint.com focuses more on front-end matters — allowing users to scan in or enter (by hand) UPC symbols from other hardware sources, via PDA or by mobile phone. BarPoint.com then tracks down product information using a proprietary search engine.

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