TIJ Seeks Protection

The music industry's worst nightmare is coming true: feeble attempts to shackle compact discs with "protection" are falling prey to simple felt pen hacks. And it's too late to build use-restriction and tracking technologies directly into CD players and existing computer CD drives.

But the record labels are having better luck getting use-restriction circuitry installed in devices that support newer formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio. Verance and Texas Instruments Japan (TIJ) announced last week that TIJ will begin incorporating Verance's patented audio use restriction and content management technology directly into TI digital signal processors (DSPs) for manufacturers of DVD-Audio devices.

TIJ, the Japanese subsidiary of U.S.-based Texas Instruments, joins several other major chip manufacturers in licensing Verance's technology. Other Verance licensees producing chips for DVD-Audio devices include Acer, ESS, LSI Logic, Matsushita, MediaTek, National Semiconductor, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Winbond Electronics and Zoran. According to Verance, these licensees produce chips for the world's 15 manufacturers of more than 40 models of DVD-Audio devices currently on the market.

Luckily for Verance, the DVD-Audio specification requires all DVD-Audio and combination DVD-Audio/Video devices sold worldwide to include their watermarking technology. The company's Bob Cerasoli comments that "This will give content providers the more secure path they are seeking for releasing their content to consumers in more feature-rich digital formats."

All is not rosy for the company, however. Verance and rival Digimarc have been tussling in court over control of several patents pertaining to digital watermarks. Digimarc claims that "For a third time, re-examination [of the patents in contention] has concluded with an expansion of the number of claims infringed by Verance." Verance responded last week stating that the company "is confident that it has not infringed the revised patent and intends to prove that in court. Clearly, Digimarc remains intent on trying to win in the press what it has been unable to accomplish in the US Patent Office or the marketplace."