President Obama is slated to release a plan this week to stimulate the country’s job growth. It’s difficult to speculate just how successful this program will be, but I have my own suggestion for job creation in the high-tech sector: Get serious, and I mean really serious, about combating intellectual property theft.
What does IP have to do with employment? A lot more than you might think. A recent report presented by Frontier Economics at the Sixth Global Congress on Combatting Counterfeiting and Piracy estimated that global counterfeiting and piracy have resulted in the loss of 2.5 million jobs throughout the Group of 20 economies.
The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition has reported that in the US alone, counterfeit merchandise is directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 jobs. Now, of course, not all these jobs are in high-tech sectors, but high-margin electronics are clearly among the more attractive targets for counterfeiters around the world.
As a representative of a franchised distributor, I obviously believe that sourcing only from direct manufacturers and authorized distributors is critical to minimizing the infiltration of counterfeit parts into the electronics supply chain. But this is a reactive strategy. As an industry, we must do more to prevent counterfeiters from gaining access to coveted IP in the first place.
With the increasing sophistication of these criminals, software-based security alone cannot safeguard against unauthorized use or duplication. In this environment, robust system security must start with a secure microprocessor.
Until recently, the high cost of silicon-based security solutions and the complex cryptographic expertise required to employ these technologies have deterred widespread adoption of advanced system authentication methods, particularly among small and midsized OEMs. But that is changing. Developments in tamper-resistant semiconductors, as well as the emergence of bundled security-IC solutions with embedded PKI (public key infrastructure), are making these technologies more affordable and technically accessible to OEMs of all size.
For example, the leading multipoint control unit maker Renesas Electronics Corp. (Tokyo: 6723) has its BoardID security IC portfolio. The BoardID chips, based on Renesas's proven smart card IC technology, enables machine-to-machine authentication and can facilitate secure tracking and use control while mitigating the risk of cloning and IP theft. Avnet Inc. (NYSE: AVT) has teamed with Renesas to provide serialization and key insertion programming for these ICs, and our Renesas-trained FAEs can support OEM designers wishing to deploy this technology.
To learn more about strategies for protecting electronics from tampering and IP theft, I encourage those heading to the ESC Conference in Boston this month to make time for the keynote speech presented by Joerg Borchert, vice president of chip card and security ICs for Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX) North America. Borchert will be discussing silicon-based security strategies for embedded designs. He is also head of the Trusted Computing Group, an international industry standards group that helps create specifications for hardware-enabled trusted computing and security technology. The TCG is another great resource for OEMs interested in learning more about silicon-based security technologies.
Representatives from Avnet will be at the ESC Conference (booths 206 and 209) if you have questions about Avnet’s range of serialization and security service offerings, including media access control addresses, RFID tags, high-bandwidth digital content protection keys, and license keys.
There is no question that counterfeiters have become more brazen and better organized, but at the end of the day, they are still just a bunch of criminals looking for fast and easy money. The more difficult, costly, and time-consuming it is to copy high-tech devices, the less vulnerable they become. We have the technology. Let’s use it. You never know -- the job you save just might be your own!