Intellectual property, or IP (a broad term covering patents, trade secrets, engineering documents, customer lists and the like) is harder than ever to protect, now that much of it is stored digitally. (For more about the underlying problems of IP, see this Q&A with Bill Boni and Ira Winkler) For that reason, a broad variety of new IP protection tools are flooding the marketplace. They go by different namesdigital rights management, watermarking, copy detection, digital access control. Eric Ogren, who tracks this market as security and software solutions senior analyst at The Yankee Group, says a critical question is which vendors will come out aheadthe document management giants now looking to incorporate security right into their products or smaller companies building their own IP security infrastructures from scratch. Ogren says the smaller companies face a daunting challenge, given that they are not always supported by those who produce most of the documents that need to be secure. But he does see some success in smaller companies making a move toward policywide, business-unit protection where the decision-making power for protecting documents rests with managers and executives, rather than being made on a document-by-document basis by individual users. Ogren says a leader in this area is Liquid Machines, which focuses on the internal distribution and access of documents. Liquid Machines' eponymous product places control in the hands of company executives, compliance officers and department heads. For example, whoever is in charge of the HR department can, via a simple Web-based interface, decide which employee can access certain digital assets and whether that employee can print particular documents or forward them. And if the status of an employee changes, his access can be changed easily through this same interface.Access can also be set at the individual document level. For example, a department head can ensure that a specific document may be viewed for only a week from the time it was sent out. The same supervisors can monitor who is reviewing what data and to whom they are forwarding the data. Protection can be added to new documents as they are created and also to already existing documents. Verdasys's Digital Guardian is another new product grabbing corporate users' attention in this arena.Ogren says an innovator in controlling external access to content is eMeta. eMeta's clients mainly consist of print and online publishing companies looking to restrict access to their content. eMeta's product in this market is RightAccess, which provides a Web-based infrastructure with advanced authorization and delegation capabilities. These capabilities allow clients to protect and manage access to their websites' content.With RightAccess, right to use can be controlled by number of page views, downloads or even article bundles. RightAccess first requires clients to define their product, that is, what is an article, research report or book. From there, parameters can be set surrounding that defined product. For example, one of eMeta's clients is The New York Times, and one way it controls online access to its newspaper stories is though giving users viewing privileges for a fixed number of stories during a set time period.As technology advances, the IP protection market will remain in flux. One of the older independent companies in the space, InterTrust Technologies, recently decided to shelve its products, head back to research and development, and resurface instead with patentsprotection ideas that other companies can install themselves. InterTrust has been around for 13 years, selling mostly to the media industry. CEO Talal Shamoon says he realized about a year and a half ago that digital rights protection tools were more often becoming imbedded into products, and he feels there will soon be fewer companies offering only IP tools. Shamoon says InterTrust currently has 85 pending patents; its new business model is certain to be tested with the approval and release of these ideas.