The technology industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the surge in digital content consumption, the need for content creators to monetize their work, and the increasing threat of online piracy, and growing importance of technologies such as blockchain and watermarking techniques. In the last three years alone, there have been over 4.1 million patents filed and granted in the technology industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Cybersecurity in technology: DRM tools. Buy the report here.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

190+ innovations will shape the technology industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the technology industry using innovation intensity models built on over 1.5 million patents, there are 190+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, homomorphic encryption, signcryption, and trusted platform modules are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Side channel attack mitigation, biometric identification and monitoring, and secure hash algorithms (SHA) are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are elliptic curve cryptography and software watermarking, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for cybersecurity in the technology industry

DRM tools is a key innovation area in cybersecurity

Digital rights management tools are software or systems engineered to safeguard and oversee digital content and intellectual property rights. They guarantee that copyrighted materials are distributed and accessed securely, shielding them from unauthorized use. DRM tools rely on encryption, licensing, and access control mechanisms to protect digital assets, thwart piracy, and regulate the usage rights of content.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 170+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established technology companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of DRM tools.

Key players in DRM tools – a disruptive innovation in the technology industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to DRM tools

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
ZTE 21 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 50 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 241 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 45 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 26 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 45 Unlock Company Profile
Comcast 42 Unlock Company Profile
Dell Technologies 151 Unlock Company Profile
Vodafone Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 109 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 93 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 71 Unlock Company Profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 114 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 244 Unlock Company Profile
Advanced New Technologies 24 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 23 Unlock Company Profile
IBM 50 Unlock Company Profile
Broadcom 19 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 28 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 22 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 141 Unlock Company Profile
Audible Magic 23 Unlock Company Profile
Virtru 28 Unlock Company Profile
Verance 29 Unlock Company Profile
Videri 41 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Among the companies innovating in cybersecurity-enabled DRM tools, Sony is one of the leading patents filers. The company’s patents are aimed at describing an information processing device comprising a data processing unit that plays back content stored in a medium. The medium contains a general-purpose area holding encrypted content and utilization control data linked to the content, as well as a protected area with restricted access blocks. These blocks encompass a title key storage section holding an encryption key for deciphering the content and time validity details pertaining to the application of the encryption key to the content.

Additionally, it includes a status storage segment recording the date of initial content playback. The data processing unit retrieves the validity period data indicating the duration for which content usage is permitted, determined by the date of the first content playback from the title key storage block. It then assesses whether content playback is permissible based on a comparison between the obtained validity period data and the current date information. Other prominent patent filers in the space include Microsoft and Dell Technologies.

In terms of application diversity, NEC leads the pack, while Videri and Broadcom are in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Virtru held the top position, followed by Verance and Ricoh.

Cybersecurity is crucial in DRM tools as it forms the bedrock of content protection. These tools are designed to safeguard digital assets and intellectual property, ensuring they are accessed and distributed securely. Effective cybersecurity measures, such as encryption protocols and secure authentication methods, are vital in preventing unauthorized access, piracy, and illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the technology industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Cybersecurity.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.