Is Your SD Card Counterfeit? It’s a Very Relevant Question in 2018
SD cards are one of the most popular removable storage form factors in the world.
Since the SD card standard originated in 2000 as an improvement over the MMC card, it has become the most popular removable storage form factor in the world. SD has become more than just a Consumer product and now in rugged, extended temperature versions have become popular in embedded, and Industrial markets too. The proliferation of the standard has led suppliers to look for any way to reduce cost. This has led to counterfeit and unlicensed makers and cards in the market.
How can an SD or microSD card be illegal?
The essential patents and trademarks surrounding the SD card and microSD card format and all its iterations is owned and licensed by the SD-3C LLC. They are the ones that can license use, and aggressively pursue those that do not adhere to the license or try to make or sell SD cards or use the SD or microSD logo without a license. There are different types of licenses depending upon whether a company manufacturers SD cards or manufacturers a product containing an SD host device which takes cards.
SD-3C takes an aggressive stance to make sure the rules are followed, and the fees are paid. A licensee that is found to violate the agreement may have their license terminated, eliminating the right for them to build SD cards or their host or ancillary device to accept SD cards.
From SD-3C LLC’s website (www.sd-3c.com):
SD-3C LLC is dedicated to the enforcement and protection of its trademark rights throughout the world, which includes working with Customs Authorities and other entities. Unauthorized use of any of the SD family of trademarks may result in seizure and loss of goods detained by Customs authorities, as well as monetary damages and penalties.
Does SD-3C enforce the rules in the marketplace?
If the number of cards and counterfeit readers seized by customs is any kind of an indication of how serious the SD-3C is, then 2017 is a good example. In just the 4th Quarter of 2017, 51 shipments were seized, in the United States and around the world, with over 63,000 units taken by customs with an estimated value of $2,757,710 at retail. These news articles regarding seizures and enforcement helps validate the point.
Enforcement activity on many e-commerce platforms in Q4 2017 resulted in an additional $6,267,290 worth of value removed from the market. These e-commerce sites include many of the most popular and respected, such as eBay, Amazon and Alibaba.
The buyer and the seller would lose in many of these seizures, and if the receiving party had already paid for the goods, as is common in many international transactions, it is left up to the parties involved to work out the financial remedy of the seizure. So, the next question is;
How can you be sure the card you are buying is legal?
Buying only from the legal makers is a good way to avoid illegal cards.
There are no tools approved by the SD-3C that allow you to test your cards prior to purchase to determine legality. The only way is to investigate the pedigree of the cards to be sure they are legal. The SD-3C web site has an extensive list of Licensees and an even bigger list of “Terminated or Expired Licensees” https://www.sd-3c.com/Licensees.aspx.
Unfortunately, the list of terminated and expired SD card licensees is 3X larger than the current list of licensed SD card manufacturers. At a minimum, you should buy directly from a licensee, or ask your supplier for confirmation that the cards you are buying are legal, and all fees have been paid. Not only is this a reasonable question that may keep you from losing your investment, but it also protects the hard work and time dedicated by the folks that hold the IP around the SD standard.
Buying cards from a counterfeit source or not checking that a card is legal also penalizes the companies that are legal and following the rules to produce a legal card. Compliance with specifications and standards set down by the SD Association and following guidelines associated with legal cards also insures users of compatibility.
Delkin Devices, Inc. has been a member of the SD Association and a licensed SD card maker in good standing for more than 10 years. We manufacture SD and MicroSD cards for many Consumer and Industrial markets including many of the most demanding like Medical, Transportation and Military markets.