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Protective Framework for Preventing Intellectual Property Theft in Electronic Devices

Uses Encrypted Hardware Designs in Integrated Circuits for Protection Against Theft by Reverse Engineering

This protective framework prevents piracy and theft of the intellectual property of electronic devices. Intellectual property theft is a prominent issue in the electronic hardware industry. U.S. firms estimate that over $1.3 billion is lost annually from foreign patent infringements. Electronic hardware is subject to intellectual property threats, such as the cloning of design features and the sale of excess manufactured chips under different names.

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed integrated circuit chips that protect hardware from intellectual property theft. The protection uses disappearing “vias” (the interconnections in electronic devices) within the integrated circuit to disguise the design of the hardware. These vanishing vias are impossible to locate without the necessary encryption keys, effectively disguising the structure of the circuits and protecting the hardware from intellectual property theft.



Circuit design for electronic devices to protect against reverse engineering, intellectual property theft, and hardware Trojan insertion



  • Creates vanishing vias, hiding the original circuit topology to users without the proper configuration key
  • Generates unique IDs for printed circuit boards (PCB), protecting via configuration information on a per-PCB basis
  • Uses encrypted circuitry designs and dummy encrypted designs, ensuring the near impossibility of intellectual property theft
  • Uses a simpler structure than related products, lowering cost to provide more efficient IP protection
  • Protects the circuit from hardware Trojan insertion, eliminating success of malicious attack


This hardware design applies vanishing vias to integrated circuit chips and printed circuit boards (PCB) to protect electronic devices from reverse engineering, such as cloning, IP infringement, or hardware Trojan insertion. Vias are informational pathways vital in the functioning of multi-layered circuits. This framework requires a configuration key to correctly set the vias' statuses and enable the device's functions. Once the desired operation is finished, the vias will be set as disconnected, making the interconnection "vanished," thereby concealing the chip’s logic function. Furthermore, dummy vias can provide additional obfuscation so that it is extremely difficult, if even possible, for an IP thief to understand the device's structure. These protective methods prevent criminals from identifying key components of the chips, thus preventing their ability to reverse engineer the chip’s functions and sell the technology as their own.

Patent Information:
App Type: Patent No.: Patent Status:
ORD/UTIL 10,283,459 Issued