Next-Gen IP Protection: A Jobs Plan

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 {complink 12722|Renesas Electronics Corp.} 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. {complink 577|Avnet Inc.} 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 {complink 2565|Infineon Technologies AG} 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!

11 comments on “Next-Gen IP Protection: A Jobs Plan

  1. Anand
    September 7, 2011

    Gerry I totally agree with you that global counterfeiting and piracy have resulted in loss of jobs. But I feel counterfeiting and piracy can be tackled if all the countries come together and implement the anti-piracy laws strictly. It needs more global co-operation and I feel US should exert more pressure on countries like China to implement anti-piracy laws strictly.

  2. saranyatil
    September 7, 2011

    “but at the end of the day, they are still just a bunch of criminals looking for fast and easy money.”

    Competetion is the key driver to hack the present technology. Everyone is trying to become masters with a short span of time, the urge to grow at a faster rate has made people to duplicate many products and IC's also.

    Strong Protection acts have to fall in place to save all the hard work that has gone into the process.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 7, 2011

    Providing copy protection within an IC is probably the best way to prevent conterfeits. But protection mechanism are also required at the various developement stages of the Ics – since now right from the schematic to final physical layout of the IC – to tapeout -everything is handled by the software and all this data is available as a set of files on some computer. It could happen that  an insider in your design team itself who could pass on this information for some quick bucks to a third party counterfeiter. How to protect such thefts?

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    September 7, 2011

    @prabhakar, You made a good point  on that, infact one of the major factors that lead to the growth of counterfeit stuffs is the fact that an insider leaked a secret or a trade secret.

    September 7, 2011

    I agree that IP theft costs us all dearly.  In the world of highly complex IC design I used to feel quite immune to such criminality thinking “how could a dumb criminal create something so complicated?”  Well for the last few years I have seen a lot of dodgy parts hit the markets.  Some are unsafe, some are almost as good as the original but the common factors are they are available and cheap.  This can drive the market prices down to unsustainable levels and make it impossible for some legitimate companies to compete.  As a result jobs jobs are lost and wealth creation vaporized.

  6. DataCrunch
    September 7, 2011

    Another point to keep in mind is that counterfeiting also contributes to price increases for legitimate products.

  7. Jay_Bond
    September 8, 2011

    “The more difficult, costly, and time-consuming it is to copy high-tech devices, the less vulnerable they become.”

    Your highlighted comment is exactly spot on. These counterfeiters, no matter how large or small of an operation, are still nothing more than criminals looking for a fast dollar. The more protection we have in place and the harder we make things to duplicate means more investment and less return for these criminals. This also means more chances of getting caught. Let’s use the technology we have to help protect all of our valuables, intellectual and physical.


  8. mfbertozzi
    September 10, 2011

    This is a good point Dave. Honestly, we could say one of key reason for counterfeit market's success is the price; people attitude is doing savings despite quality, especially at the time of financial crisis. As per Jerry's article, US Gov action for address piracy issues is very interesting, some doubts about effective results still remain (imo).

  9. _hm
    September 11, 2011

    I agree with your points. As responsible citizen, we should also do our part not to purchase counerfeit and illegal products. I have seen many local indulging in this trend. Law should be more stringent and there should be solid foundation in education system from primary school to university. This may help the system in long run.



  10. JADEN
    September 25, 2011

    Counterfeiting is one of the most pervasive and serious challenges facing today's electronics supply chain, most applications that rely on electronics can be seriously compromised as a result of counterfeit and sub-standard products entering a customer's manufacturing processes, it is really causing serious economic harm to customer.

  11. maou_villaflores
    September 30, 2011


    We already know that since the beginning of time. But I think going back to the IP Protection I guess the international business community should work together to make this happen.


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