With the explosion of the Web, there is a desperate need for protecting
intellectual property from piracy and counterfeiting. The International
Intellectual Property Alliance estimates that US companies lost about $12.4
billion worldwide because of piracy in 1998. The European Commission
estimates that more than 5 percent of world trade is lost to counterfeiting.
Digimarc specializes in the New Age business of digital watermarking
technologies. That is, micro digital code is embedded in printed and
digital content — magazine ads, passports, tickets, stamps, clothing
brands, stock certificates, debit cards, etc. — so there can be instant
identification of ownership (detected by special reader software).
The company has been building these technologies since 1996. But since
then, the company has been expanding its product line. For example,
Digimarc plans to launch its Paper-as-Portal Service. Content producers
will place digital watermarks in printed or visual content. A reader can
use a device that, as it is pointed it at the content, the Web page will be
launched and can be viewed immediately.
So far, the company has been showing impressive growth. Not only are
revenues soaring, but losses are narrowing. For the first nine months of
1999, revenues were $4.2 million, up from $691,000 for the same period a
year ago. Losses during this time fell from $2.3 million to $824,000.
One indication of the appeal of the company is the investor group:
Macrovision, Reuters Group PLC, Adobe, and Softbank Ventures. Digimarc
also has a strong customer base, such as National Geographic, Getty
Communications, and Fox Broadcasting.
A major barrier to entry is Digimarc’s portfolio of patents. The company
has 15 US patents, with 59 applications currently on file. There are 17
foreign patents pending.
Digimarc has the potential of becoming the standard for digital
watermarking. Actually, the company is an active member of a variety of
industry initiatives, such as the Copy Protection Working Group and Digital
Imaging Group. If Digimarc does become the standard, then the company is
likely to be a tremendous performer.