A talent development major, which offers innovative classrooms and e-learning solutions to students in over two dozen countries, faces an obvious business threat: the replication of its course material and curriculum by competition. It also faces an insidious threat from ‘coaching classes’ and private tutors. Two decades of creating education content, modules, processes and innovations can be copied in minutes to a computer and used by others. It’s not very different for an architect who creates his designs and submits them to his client.
The client, meanwhile, has half a dozen architects submitting designs for the same project. Finally, the client picks and chooses the best features from all the submissions, and asks one of the architects to create a final version. It sounds like business as usual but in reality it is an infringement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Put bluntly, it is theft. Intellectual property fraud threatens to be the single biggest economic crime of the 21st Century, especially because of the increasing amount of digital content being created, sold and transmitted across the world.
Not surprisingly, the security market is worth a lot. An analysis of international trade data suggests that up to $ 200 billion of internationally traded products could have been counterfeit or pirated in 2005. This amount is larger than the national GDPs of about 150 economies. The figure does not include non-tangible pirated digital products being distributed via the internet. If these items were added, says The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting and Piracy study published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2007, “the total magnitude of counterfeiting and piracy worldwide could well be several hundred billion dollars more.”
Naturally, solutions to protecting IP are the holy grail of the creative business. Writers, artists, designers, architects, software developers, gaming companies need to not only share their work, but also keep it protected from unauthorised transmission and usage. Even lawyers and bankers need to keep their work from being illegally or surreptitiously copied and reused in a world that is going rapidly digital.
The traditional solution is to keep all files and data protected using simple user name login and passwords or use serial number pair schemes. These work like digital locks. Imagine a lock that needs a key to open it and you know what most security today amounts to – breakable. Biometric sensors and encryption are making things more difficult for pirates, but the inconvenience caused in some use-cases cannot be overlooked.
The answer to these problems has been created by a 15-person Bangalore-based start-up called Trinity Future-In. Their goal: to secure digital assets and software assets, to curb the unauthorised duplication of digital assets and to provide secure distribution media for both online and offline assets. Trinity has, amongst its advisors and mentors Chairman and CEO of Encore Software Vinay Deshpande, and Tata Services legend and the person behind the success of Titan Industries Xerxes Desai. Says Trinity Future-In Chairman David Lobo, “You can’t imagine that a solution to the problem could emerge from a humble garage in Bangalore, could you?” Honestly – not really.
Trinity creates a method of protecting digital files that does not use a lock and key system. In this solution files become invisible or inactive and it simply does not let anyone access the files that assist data duplication. Critically, the digital data remains secured whether it is inside or outside the security device. Some Trinity Certain products are capable of creating a log of all attempts to tamper with the system with computer serial numbers records and the date and time of the attempt.
Trinity’s series of data protection products include MyIP-Vault aimed at the B2C retail market, researchers, law firms, designers, service and education companies; eS-Vault that is aimed at game developers, software developers, multimedia presentations, corporate presentations and tutorials; and the D-Vault aimed at the health sector, defense companies, universities, database management companies and training institutes. Trinity has applied for 13 patents, 4 of which are in the US and the first one of which has been granted. Next, Trinity plans to launch data protection products for web content that should attract considerable interest.
Web content is amongst the simplest to copy and transmit – text, images and video worth millions are copied routinely, affecting genuine businesses. Take the case of Shriram Adukoorie, whose web and mobile based local search company Ask Laila creates information on events, commercial outlets and public places that is carefully collated and verified for users. Says Adukoorie, whose company has been funded by Matrix Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and SVB India Capital Partners, “We have a dedicated team at Ask Laila that makes phone calls to verify the accuracy of the content we have in terms of event details, address and contact numbers. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this. But automated spiders from competitors and other sites crawl our content relentlessly. We have had to block such spiders, but the companies that use these methods are smart and they keep changing their IP addresses so that blocking gets difficult. We have extensively watermarked our data and are really interested in companies that provide such tools and software to protect content.”
The Trinity products work in simple ways. Course material can be displayed on a computer by the user but cannot be copied and therefore cannot be transmitted. In addition, a user cannot make a “screen dump” either on a computer’s clip board and transmit it or print the screen (normally done using the “PrtSc” key).
“I believe the product is revolutionary,” says Lobo “not evolutionary.” Tests conducted on some of the products by the Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) division of the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology suggests that the product is sound. “The test cases employed and the results obtained conform to the claims made by Trinity Future-In with respect to protection of stored information,” says the test result.
According to an IDC report called Worldwide Information Protection and Control (IPC), 2007-2011 Forecast and Analysis: Securing World’s New Currency, the market for data protection products in 2009 is $2,055 million. “Our products are priced very reasonably compared to the security levels provided — a negligible cost to keeping your IP protected,” says 27-year-old Sathish BV an expert in the field of information security who is also one of the inventors of the products. And in the low price could be the key to Trinity Future-In’s success.
A quick guide to IP
There are different kinds of Intellectual Property and it helps to understand how each is protected:
Artistic creation in areas of the arts such as poetry, books, scripts, plays, paintings, illustrations, caricatures, cartoons, comics, photographs, music, films and software are protected through copyright.
Technological inventions can be protected through patents which need to be filed for and then granted.
Characteristic features like words, symbols, colours, shapes (what we know as logos) and even sounds that distinguish a product or service from another are protected by trademark rights.
Specific appearance of things like vehicles, phones, watches, pens and white goods have design protection.
Geographical indications (such as Champagne) and trade secrets are also types of intellectual property.