Methods for Imprinting Watermarks on Flash Memory

uah p 20022

Docket: UAH-P-20022


The rate of counterfeit electronics in the market is increasing exponentially due to cloned, over-produced, out-of-spec, and recycled chips entering the globalized supply chain. These counterfeit electronics can harmfully impact areas ranging from consumer electronics all the way to mission-critical electronics found in the healthcare, military, and transportation domains. The U.S military even estimates 15% of its own supply chain is made of counterfeit parts. Counterfeit parts cause the electronics industry up to seven billion dollars in economic losses.

Researchers at UAH have developed a proprietary watermarking technology for NAND/NOR flash memories to detect counterfeit electronics. The physical imprinting of watermarks on flash memory chips and extraction of physical properties of the flash memory cell cannot be reversed. This watermarking technology allows the memory manufacturers to securely imprint manufacturing-related information on the chips before they are introduced to the market. It essentially cuts out counterfeiters’ access to the chain. For example, if a counterfeiter were able to obtain the foundry fall-out chips with “rejected” watermarks, they would be unable to convert them to an “accepted” one.

This technology comes with several benefits addressing the limitations current anti-counterfeit measures face. First, it allows manufacturers to write and read the watermark from the flash controller standard system commands. This process can then be automated for numerous chips without manual intervention. Second, it does not require any extra hardware or modification to the chip’s design or manufacturing process. Lastly, the chip verification process does not require maintenance of large chip-specific databases at the manufacturing site.




  • Electronics industry
  • Flash memory chips
  • Healthcare industry
  • Defense industry
  • Transportation industry


  • Cost effective
  • Irreversible
  • Automated
  • Universally applicable to all flash memory chips
  • No need for contacting manufacturing sites for verification of authenticity


State of Development: Prototype

Licensing Status: Available for Licensing

Patent Status: Proprietary

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