How Brands Tackle Counterfeiting
By Ron T.
For centuries, the makers and manufacturers of goods have been engaged in an almost non-stop war with those who make cheap copies of their products.
In the past, the owners have come up with some truly imaginative and inventive attempts to protect their brand and reputation. That has even included, at times, the use of things such as invisible ink signatures on items that a potential counterfeiter would hopefully not be aware of or even if they were, that they’d be unable to replicate.
Sadly, human ingenuity isn’t restricted to people of honourable intent and legitimate purpose. Sometimes the crooks have been just as smart and arguably even smarter than the manufacturers they’re battling So, over recent decades brand owners have put much more research and funding into trying to uniquely identify their goods and in the process perhaps deliver some form of ‘knockout blow’ to the counterfeiters.
Fortunately, science and technology is now putting this once unimaginable dream within reach. The basic idea is essentially simple – you use high-tech science and technology to uniquely distinguish your items in such a fashion that it would be prohibitively expensive or even technically impossible for the counterfeiters to duplicate.
In a sense, the basic brand security concept here is no different from that adopted by manufacturers 200-300 years ago but today technology is making it achievable.
Let’s look at just two examples of such technologies:
- DNA encoding
- HoloQR systems.
In the case of DNA encoding, the approach is ingenious. It essentially involves unique combinations of DNA code sequences being selected and then imbedded into the product or products concerned. The sheer number of potential combinations here is mind-boggling and both the mathematics and the DNA science are unlikely to be replicable by any counterfeiter.
It’s also possible for the DNA to be detected by a simple scanner, making it easy for consumer organisations as well as law enforcement officers to identify and differentiate fakes.
HoloQR is based upon a slightly more familiar technology, that of a hologram. True, holograms have been used for some years in terms of brand protection but in a simple form they can be replicated.
By contrast, HoloQR contains multiple imbedded identifiers that are part of the hologram itself. That can even include DNA and it can be detected by simple technology including that available through applications on a smart phone.
That’s a great advantage because it puts fake detection into the hands of the consumer and removes it from the domain of the specialist counterfeiting detection operation.
In some quarters, counterfeiting is sometimes seen with a degree of sympathy and might even have some connotations of being a ‘victimless crime’. This is, of course, nonsense and both the consumer and the sweat shop labour typically used to produce these items are all victims.
That’s why these brand protection technologies are extremely valuable and something that the major brand retailers are increasingly interested in rolling out across their product ranges.
Is it possible to say that the war against the counterfeiters is close to being won? Well, such sentiments are always brave but there does seem to be legitimate hope that there is some end in sight to this ongoing global problem.
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