Intellectual property (IP) theft is an ever-present danger to companies who subcontract manufacturing to electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers. A witness testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that he observed “factories in China of 10,000 to 15,000 people set up for the purpose of counterfeiting.” The recent enormous increase of IP theft has been facilitated by increasing use of EMSs and the common practice of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of providing EMSs with complete and detailed design information in electronic format. Unscrupulous individuals or companies can utilize that design information to reverse engineer the product and produce exact or slightly modified copies.
Some companies address this issue by manually filtering, partitioning and deleting information to protect their IP, which can take enormous amounts of time. A new generation of electronic computer aided design (ECAD) software helps guard IP by enabling users to control what type of information is shared with various members of the extended enterprise. By automatically enforcing best practices in IP control, companies can be confident that each supplier only has the information they absolutely need to do their job. This approach makes it much more difficult to reverse engineer a product while not complicating the legitimate manufacturing process. IP management best practices can significantly slow down, if not stop the counterfeit process.