A covert, gamma-ray "signature" is used as a "watermark" for property identification. This new watermarking technology is based on a unique steganographic or "hidden writing" digital signature, implemented in tiny quantities of gamma-ray-emitting radioisotopic material combinations, generally covertly emplaced on or within an object. This digital signature may be readily recovered at distant future times, by placing a sensitive, high energy-resolution gamma-ray detecting instrument reasonably precisely over the location of the watermark, which location may be known only to the object's owner; however, the signature is concealed from all ordinary detection means because its exceedingly low level of activity is obscured by the natural radiation background (including the gamma radiation naturally emanating from the object itself, from cosmic radiation and material surroundings, from human bodies, etc.). The "watermark" is used in object-tagging for establishing object identity, history or ownership. It thus may serve as an aid to law enforcement officials in identifying stolen property and prosecuting theft thereof. Highly effective, potentially very low cost identification-on demand of items of most all types is thus made possible.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.