Intertrust Technologies

Intertrust Technologies is an interesting company. It was founded in 1990 or so by Victor Shear, whose roots were in the CD-ROM and online publishing world, and Victor and a small group of others spent the first five or so years in deep stealth mode, defining claims regarding digital rights management (DRM) processes. My own involvement with the company began right on the heels of my leaving Emedia Professional, when I was asked to check out potential DRM competitors at an East coast conference.  Within a couple of months I was out in Silicon Valley helping develop white papers and marketing collateral, and then, off site, researching various companies and business models for reports on topics including the following:

  • Internet-based music;
  • Digital cable and television;
  • Online privacy issues and legislation;
  • Healthcare and privacy legislation.

Keep in mind that this was 1998, and Napster was still ahead and the Web as we know it, was still pretty raw.

This was a great gig, and it was great to work with people who looked far ahead.  Of course, Intertrust had its ups and downs: the company had its IPO in the late 1990s and at some point peaked with a valuation in the $4 billion range, and then dropped pretty hard.  Perhaps part of their problem (beyond the widely overblown expectations that had grabbed hold in the tech marketplace known, eventually, as dot com) was that Intertrust was facing off with Microsoft in a patent infringement battle, and as share prices dropped from triple-digit to single-digit sums, the company went private.  As stated in the Intertrust Corporate History web page “…in 2003, Intertrust became a private joint-venture owned by Sony, Philips and Stephens Inc. Today, Intertrust is an independent, privately held company headquartered in Silicon Valley.”

The share buy back, I’ve heard, cost around $440,000,000, which, more or less, was what Microsoft ended up paying to settle the patent infringement suit and to license up. Intertrust’s growth has been strong and steady since, and while it remains mostly behind the scenes, it describes itself as:

… a market enabler, embracing the process and outcome of open standards and joint development efforts as well as incubating start-ups. The company’s believes these efforts are necessary and effective tools to market adoption.
In 2005, Intertrust promoted interoperability among disparate DRM technologies as a founding member of the Coral Consortium. The company participated in the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DRM specification and joined forces with leading consumer electronics firms and formed Marlin, the first standards-based content sharing technology platform, with Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony.
In early 2006, the Marlin group formalized its efforts and launched the Marlin Developer Community (MDC), an open standards community development initiative and the Marlin Trust Management Organization (MTMO), a neutral trust management licensing organization. Intertrust created Seacert, a trust services subsidiary, which served as proponent and facilitator for these efforts.
During 2007 and 2008, the company continued to promote the use of open standards for consumer media distribution, facilitating Marlin adoption and the development of a Marlin-enabled consumer content distribution ecosystem. Additional global technology firms licensed Intertrust’s patents, including company’s like Adobe whose focus goes far beyond consumer media distribution.

My first blog post for the Gilbane Group was titled “Is Anyone Still Talking about DRM Transactional Infrastructure?” and it was informed, in large part, by the vision of Intertrust.  Unfortunately, if anyone is talking about fulfilling what may be the last essential piece of digital publishing infrastructure, they are still pretty much sub silentio, if not sub rosa.

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