News | Feb 13, 2019

Navy invents tripwire to short out electronics probed by IP thieves, foreign agents

Tech transfer team ready to license to consumer electronics, defense suppliers

News Article Image of Navy invents tripwire to short out electronics probed by IP thieves, foreign agents

Scientist Matt Kay, left, and electrical engineer Matthew Gadlage perform work in the SPECTRA Lab at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. (Navy photo)

A team of U.S. Navy scientists and engineers received a U.S. patent on a technology that stops intellectual property theft, a major concern for electronics and defense companies who use hardware produced by subcontractors in Asia.

U.S. Patent 10,204,875, titled “Systems and Methods for Inhibiting Backend Access to Integrated Circuits by Integrating Photon and Electron Sensing Latch-up Circuits,” was issued to inventors Matt Kay, Matthew Gadlage, Adam Duncan, Brett Hamilton, Brett Werner, and Austin Roach, all of Indiana, on Tuesday, for their work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (a PDF of the patent is linked below).

Their invention short-circuits an electronics hardware component if it is exposed to sophisticated techniques used by industrial spies attempting to counterfeit it, or to an attempt at modification by foreign intelligence agents.

For example, a focused ion beam can be used to change how an integrated circuit behaves after it’s been manufactured. Hardware with the Navy technology installed would short out as soon as the beam’s ions hit the latch-up circuit.

Large semiconductor corporations like AMD, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm, outsource their production of certain products. Loose intellectual property laws and lax enforcement in China and other Asian countries have allowed their hardware to be counterfeited.

And counterfeit and unreliable electronics also impact the Department of Defense, which requires electronics to be long-life products that work flawlessly in all environments. The Defense Microelectronics Activity is the accrediting agency for DoD integrated circuit suppliers and maintains a list of trusted foundries.

In coordination with the Technology Transfer Office at NSWC-Crane, TechLink, a national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is marketing the technology to qualified companies.

Businesses that can integrate the latch-up circuits into their supply chains, whether for defense components or consumer electronics, will need a patent license agreement that includes a commercialization plan, said Sean Patten, senior technology manager at TechLink.

The first step for interested businesses is to contact Patten, who can provide no-cost licensing assistance, which includes the development of the required commercialization plan and patent license application.

“This is really important for our warfighters; it helps us keep our technological advantage from being stolen,” Patten said. “Tech transfer is the first step in seeing technology like this come full circle back to the warfighter, but also seeing if it can be of use for commercial suppliers.”

To learn more about licensing U.S. patent 10,204,875 email Sean Patten at or call 406-994-7721.

Headshot Image of Sean Patten, CLP

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