Counterfeiting: How to Fight Back
Anti-counterfeiting Technologies for Packaging
Authentication technologies can help preserve your brand
How do counterfeits affect brands? They can harm brand integrity, reduce consumer safety, even ratchet up product liability issues. Find out what methods are available today for authentication.
While the number and complexity of specific technologies continues to proliferate, all fall into two basic categories:
- Overt Protection: These are methods and technologies that anyone, consumers included, can see and identify on a product. Safety shrink-wraps, stickers and holograms are examples.
- Covert Protection: These are methods that are hidden from the naked eye and only seen or apparent using special ID or testing equipment. Inks, dyes and integrated polymer-based solutions are examples.
Within these two areas, there are a handful of different application methods used to incorporate a security authentication solution into a product. Here are seven of the most popular delivery methods available to implement a solution in either a packaging or product program:
Inks and Dyes
Commonly used in the authentication of currency and documents, ink based security features are becoming more popular in consumer packaging solutions as well. These covert solutions are ideal for packaging applications where the field is heavily text or graphic laden. When viewed under a black light or other illumination technology, the unique identification in the ink or dye is revealed. The main drawbacks however are the fact that once the packaging is removed or if the surface is altered, there is no way to authenticate the end use article itself.
- Pros: Common, easy to implement, cost-efficient
- Cons: Easily removed or obscured
Most typically used in conjunction with inks and dyes, labeling solutions can be incorporated via the packaging decoration itself or via a standalone label that is applied to the finished product. The advantage of using a label-based program is that the technology is confined to a limited space and there is no change to the current manufacturing process. Labels, however, can be easily removed and they also highlight features that potential counterfeiters can mimic.
- Pros: Easy to implement, no change to manufacturing process
- Cons: Easily removed, easy counterfeiting target
Holograms offer a highly visible or overt deterrent to counterfeiters. The benefit of this approach is twofold in that it provides a barrier to imitation and it offers consumer’s piece of mind that they are receiving genuine articles. The average consumer may not be sophisticated enough to spot a counterfeit hologram though. There have been significant advancements in 3D holographic technologies of late but a fake 2D holographic label can be designed and purchased on the internet for less than $0.01 a piece.
- Pros: Visible deterrent, consumer peace of mind
- Cons: More Expensive, becoming cheap to counterfeit, requires manufacturing change
Integrated Polymer Based Solutions
Polymer-based solutions are ideal for applications where durability is a concern and there is a need to verify the authenticity of the item after the initial sales, for instance in a warranty claim or litigation following product use. These overt and covert technologies embed unique identification into the polymer the product is made from. So it is indelibly linked to the item and cannot be removed or altered without mechanically altering the item itself, which is an advantage in combating grey market goods as well as counterfeit ones.
- Pros: Easy to implement, indelible link to package or item
- Cons: May require manufacturing adjustments
The use of 2D and 3D bar codes allows for a great deal of information to be encoded in a small amount of space. This overt authentication method is predicted to be the fastest growing method of track and trace solution over the next 5 years. The proliferation of apps allows a consumer or brand owner to scan and authenticate a code with the touch of a button.
- Pros: Encodes lots of info in small space, easily authenticated by manufacturer and consumer
- Cons: Coding system relatively easy to duplicate
RFID or Chip Based Solutions
Covert chip based solutions will allow the next evolution in anti-counterfeiting as we transition to truly smart packaging. A container will not only be able to independently verify location in real time, but it will also be able to communicate with other containers in near proximity to report on potential diversion activity. Software advances are making these solutions more attainable but there is also a price premium as well as a cost to establish the initial infrastructure required.
- Pros: Ultimate in individual product by product verification, smart technology provides other tracking benefits
- Cons: Very costly to implement, requires manufacturing changes
Multilevel Technology Solutions
A combination approach of both covert and overt anti-counterfeiting solutions provide the greatest level of protection. For instance a label may contain both a 3D bar code, a hologram and a covert ink or polymer-based solution.
- Pros: Combination approach difficult to replicate, uses overt and covert technologies
- Cons: Costly, may require manufacturing change
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of the most common solutions available and in use today. As the counterfeiting landscape constantly changes, the solutions employed to combat them need to adapt just as quickly. PolyOne, through their Percept Technology, offers the ability to embed unique authentication markers within the polymers used to manufacture products. This provides an unprecedented level of security and peace of mind in the face of today’s global, multi-tiered manufacturing challenges.
Learn more about the solutions that bring this idea to life: