Maker Pro
Maker Pro

Securing PCBs from pirates

R

REng

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E
 
N

Nick Funk

Jan 1, 1970
0
Epoxy potting or encapsulation with metallic soldered/welded enclosure.
This would keep everyone except the really determined inquisitive person
out.

Nick
 
M

Mark Jones

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E

There is such a thing - it's called potting compound. Probably an epoxy. Once
circuit is imbedded, there is almost no way to get into it without destroying it.

-- "There's one thing I hate more than politics, and that is religious zealots."
MCJ 20050124
 
M

Mike Harrison

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E

Complete waste of time. Anyone who wants to figure it out will do. best way is to put some critical
functionality in a MCU or PLD
 
M

Mike Harrison

Jan 1, 1970
0
There is such a thing - it's called potting compound. Probably an epoxy. Once
circuit is imbedded, there is almost no way to get into it without destroying it.

Epoxy is easy to remove with the right (readily available) chemicals.
 
I

Ian Stirling

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

It's not easy.

It is possible - ceramic shell (with feedthroughs) with circuit board
enclosed in thermite.
Inside shell is random arrangement of fine wire, potted, and internally
connected to a microprocessor to verify it.
Energy storage (capacitor or battery) designed to fire the thermite on
disruption of the shell, or temperature limits, or neutron or other
penetrating radiation fluxes.

This is still vulnerable to using explosives to blow it apart.
To get away from that, you need to go with a meter or so standoff distance,
and swap the thermite for high explosives.
Any penetrating particle intended to diffuse the components for analysis
without giving the mechanism time to set off the scrambler will itself
set off the explosives due to its kinetic energy.
Special care has to be taken to get the explosives to atomise the circuit
and not to leave any usable clues.
 
L

Luhan Monat

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E

Do everything possible in a microcontorller - set the 'code protect'
function.
 
G

Guy Macon

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

If your direct competitors are as good at reverse-engineering as
I am (or are willing to hire me) the methods you describe *might*
delay the reverse-engineering by a day or two.

The other methods discussed that don't involve a redesign might
give you a week or so. I can remove epoxy, X-ray parts, and open
ICs and compare the chip to my collection of already-opened chips.

A redesign with a uC or programmable logic raises the bar quite a
bit, and might force me to design a plug-in replacement just from
looking at the inputs and outputs. Unless it's a reverb or a PRNG;
those are quite hard to reverse-engineer from the signals alone.
 
R

Rich Grise

Jan 1, 1970
0
Epoxy is easy to remove with the right (readily available) chemicals.

Yes, which also remove the chip packages, which are epoxy, and so the
numbers. If they want to put the resulting naked chips, hanging by their
..003" dia. gold bonding wires, under a scanning electron microscope, they
have enough money that you'd lose a court battle anyway.

And if all you want to do is get the numbers off the DIPs, a Dremel is
probably cheaper than a laser gouger.

Good Luck!
Rich
 
M

mike

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E

Sanding the numbers off the chips can deter someone unskilled in the art
from directly copying your device...UNSKILLED.
Potting the thing will slow them down a little more. But it will also
make it impossible to repair or upgrade the unit.

Once had a problem with a military product that had been conformal
coated. While the unpotting chemicals were indeed readily available,
there were significant OSHA restrictions requiring a major investment in
ventillation hoods and worker protection in order to use 'em.

For one skilled in the art, the problem is figuring out WHAT to do, not
HOW to do it. Given the external definition, it's often easier to
redesign it than to reverse engineer it.

If your design will change the world, get yourself a GOOD patent firm
and a BIG pile of money to defend it.

Put what you can inside a microcontroller or an ASIC or some such
device. Sand the labels off if you must.
Put your effort into sales. It's a lot more important to be first to
market with sufficient marketing to generate demand and sufficient
supply to meet it. A good idea started on a shoe string will invariably
be taken away from you no matter what you do to obfuscate the
implementation.

mike



--
Return address is VALID but some sites block emails
with links. Delete this sig when replying.
..
Wanted, PCMCIA SCSI Card for HP m820 CDRW.
FS 500MHz Tek DSOscilloscope TDS540 Make Offer
Wanted, 12.1" LCD for Gateway Solo 5300. Samsung LT121SU-121
Bunch of stuff For Sale and Wanted at the link below.
MAKE THE OBVIOUS CHANGES TO THE LINK
ht<removethis>tp://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Monitor/4710/
 
W

Wouter van Ooijen

Jan 1, 1970
0
We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

Make it too cheap to be worthwile to reverse engineer. If the
difference between manufacturing price and sell price is high enough
*everything* can (and probably will) be reverse-engineered. Lots of
engineers regard chips with removed marking as a nice puzzle for the
weekends.


Wouter van Ooijen

-- ------------------------------------
http://www.voti.nl
Webshop for PICs and other electronics
http://www.voti.nl/hvu
Teacher electronics and informatics
 
S

Spehro Pefhany

Jan 1, 1970
0
Make it too cheap to be worthwile to reverse engineer. If the
difference between manufacturing price and sell price is high enough
*everything* can (and probably will) be reverse-engineered. Lots of
engineers regard chips with removed marking as a nice puzzle for the
weekends.


Wouter van Ooijen

Parts with their numbers removed are also a fairly reliable indicator
that the profit margin is attractive and the device is simple and
unprotected enough to be well worth copying (at least in the eyes of
the company manufacturing it).

Making it really tiny and incorporating programmable logic or
microcontrollers helps. But there are some products that are just not
possible for company A to make a buck off, whereas company B can do it
anytime they want. Sometimes those products never make it into
production, because there is nobody with a real profit motivation.


Best regards,
Spehro Pefhany
 
B

Barry Lennox

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.


Almost impossible to do in hardware, at least against a determined
competitor, But are really sure your product is that unique and
valuable, or is it wishful thinking?

Start with ground-off part numbers, a $30 rotary tool will do that.
Maybe simple epoxy encapsulation will help, but there's a number of
solvents, "Stirranol" is one commercial product that works well.

Do as much as possible in a cheap micro with protected code, build the
critical parts with 01005 SMD parts, place a steel shield over it, and
then smother it with an epoxy and Kevlar bandage would keep out most
folk.

Barry Lennox
 
K

Ken Smith

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

A few suggestions:

If you are making very many, you can get the chips numbered with your own
numbering system.

Sanding off numbers delays the other guy by about 3.2 seconds if that is
all you do. You also risk creating static in the process.

Placing chips on both sides of the PCB can help to slow down the guy with
an X-ray machine. Adding a layer of squiggly traces to the PCB can also
help.

Don't let the managers bring some-one through on a tour. It really
happened.

Make the circuit on 2 PCBs and attach then together face to face with a
bunch of bus wires and then fill the gap between them with epoxy.

Patent everything but a real dark secret, including the screws that hold
it together. It is common for those who wish to copy a design to do a
patent search.

Desiging the housing such that it is hard to get apart helps about as much
as epoxy on the PCB.
 
W

Winfield Hill

Jan 1, 1970
0
Luhan Monat wrote...
1. Make and sell a few of your devices without patent or any other
protection. Document all development and sales.

Right. But you'd have to publish or disclose enough design details
to allow reproduction, i.e. schematics and program listings in the
manuals, sent to every customer, etc.
2. Wait until some large company rips off your design and creates
the market for the item.

3. Approach the above company threatening to give aid and assitance
to a direct competitor of theirs. Their competetor can get a patent
using you as the intial developer. The company that stole your
design is barred from ever getting a patent do to your 'prior art.'

The one-year time limit for applying for a patent after a public
disclosure would have run out. Perhaps you could attempt to sell
your documented design info to a competitor who was being sued for
patent infringement... if you knew about it (quite a number of
"ifs" in there), but remember, you had previously disclosed this
info to all your customers, and made it public. OK, you could be
an expert witness, but that's just a little pay by the hour.
 
L

Luhan Monat

Jan 1, 1970
0
REng said:
Hello All

We have an interesting problem - we are marketing a product (an
amplifier/signal processor) specific to our applications and we need to
prevent it from being opened up and reverse-engineered by direct
competitors.

I was wondering if anyone here knew of ways to laser off the marking
from the chips or fix/solder a flat metal sheet (like I have seen on
some boards) over the components. If the metal sheet is opened up, out
come the components as well.

Thanks

R E

1. Make and sell a few of your devices without patent or any other
protection. Document all development and sales.

2. Wait until some large company rips off your design and creates the
market for the item.

3. Approach the above company threatening to give aid and assitance to a
direct competitor of theirs. Their competetor can get a patent using
you as the intial developer. The company that stole your design is
barred from ever getting a patent do to your 'prior art.'

4. If the company doesn't give you sufficient compensation, go to their
competitor and make a deal with them.
 
K

keith

Jan 1, 1970
0
Luhan Monat wrote...

Right. But you'd have to publish or disclose enough design details
to allow reproduction, i.e. schematics and program listings in the
manuals, sent to every customer, etc.

Selling the device, with enough details to show the operation will protect
it for *your* use, but it deosn't do anythign to otherwise "protect" the
widget.
The one-year time limit for applying for a patent after a public
disclosure would have run out.

....and that one-year "bar" is only for US patents. Be careful with that
"public disclosure" too. "Disclosure" includes "recieving commercial
value". If you've told a potential customer that you have a widget that
does "framis", even though you haven't told how it does "framis", the
clock has already started.
Perhaps you could attempt to sell your
documented design info to a competitor who was being sued for patent
infringement... if you knew about it (quite a number of "ifs" in
there), but remember, you had previously disclosed this info to all
your customers, and made it public. OK, you could be an expert
witness, but that's just a little pay by the hour.

If it's the same idea the prior art (the opponents "patent") will nullify
his. he won't even get the little pay.
 
J

John Woodgate

Jan 1, 1970
0
I read in sci.electronics.design that Winfield Hill <[email protected]_rowland-
The one-year time limit for applying for a patent after a public
disclosure would have run out.

It applies only in USA only. In other countries, the initial disclosure
would *prevent anyone* securing a patent.
 
L

Luhan Monat

Jan 1, 1970
0
keith said:
Selling the device, with enough details to show the operation will protect
it for *your* use, but it deosn't do anythign to otherwise "protect" the
widget.



...and that one-year "bar" is only for US patents. Be careful with that
"public disclosure" too. "Disclosure" includes "recieving commercial
value". If you've told a potential customer that you have a widget that
does "framis", even though you haven't told how it does "framis", the
clock has already started.




If it's the same idea the prior art (the opponents "patent") will nullify
his. he won't even get the little pay.

My suggestion was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Just like to inject a
different line of thought. I have been envolved in some very testy
patent battles. Mostly, its a game of get your product to market hard
and fast; setup offshore manufacturing from the getgo; leave your
competitors eating your dust.
 
Top