Model Watermarking for Image Processing Networks

  • Jie Zhang University of Science and Technology in China
  • Dongdong Chen Microsoft Cloud AI
  • Jing Liao City University of Hong Kong
  • Han Fang University of Science and Technology in China
  • Weiming Zhang University of Science and Technology in China
  • Wenbo Zhou University of Science and Technology in China
  • Hao Cui University of Science and Technology in China
  • Nenghai Yu University of Science and Technology in China


Deep learning has achieved tremendous success in numerous industrial applications. As training a good model often needs massive high-quality data and computation resources, the learned models often have significant business values. However, these valuable deep models are exposed to a huge risk of infringements. For example, if the attacker has the full information of one target model including the network structure and weights, the model can be easily finetuned on new datasets. Even if the attacker can only access the output of the target model, he/she can still train another similar surrogate model by generating a large scale of input-output training pairs. How to protect the intellectual property of deep models is a very important but seriously under-researched problem. There are a few recent attempts at classification network protection only.

In this paper, we propose the first model watermarking framework for protecting image processing models. To achieve this goal, we leverage the spatial invisible watermarking mechanism. Specifically, given a black-box target model, a unified and invisible watermark is hidden into its outputs, which can be regarded as a special task-agnostic barrier. In this way, when the attacker trains one surrogate model by using the input-output pairs of the target model, the hidden watermark will be learned and extracted afterward. To enable watermarks from binary bits to high-resolution images, both traditional and deep spatial invisible watermarking mechanism are considered. Experiments demonstrate the robustness of the proposed watermarking mechanism, which can resist surrogate models learned with different network structures and objective functions. Besides deep models, the proposed method is also easy to be extended to protect data and traditional image processing algorithms.

AAAI Technical Track: Vision