Counting the cost of counterfeiting

Scanning label

Scanning labelSecurity and brand protection is one of the biggest concerns for businesses today, and the issue has been rising up the business agenda over the last few years. This article looks at what protection is available for metal packaging.

According to an Ipsos Mori survey conducted in 2008, which canvassed public opinion on counterfeit goods, 61 per cent of the population believe that counterfeiting is theft and is wrong, but one in five would still sometimes buy counterfeit goods.

Although you might save money, buying counterfeit goods is a risky business as you cannot guarantee that the product was made to the right standard, which in turn may mean that the product is both harmful and dangerous. Many brand owners underestimate the seriousness and frequency of counterfeiting and often do not take adequate protection until after they have become a victim.

However, nowadays, counterfeiting is a global phenomenon and a whole range of products are under threat including coffee, clothing, footwear, ball-point pens, drinks, toothpaste, batteries, mobile phone parts and pharmaceuticals, with metal packaging unfortunately not being exempt from that list. The question that all manufacturers have got to ask is – are we doing enough?

The answer is clearly no! The global counterfeit goods market value is estimated to be worth nearly $1.59 trillion (Havoscope, 2011). As a result, making sure that a brand is fully protected from counterfeiters is essential.

The security challenge

Brand protection comes at a cost, but not nearly as high as the cost of falling victim to counterfeiting. Having to deal with the counterfeiting of a brand, could prove very expensive as well as dangerous. Making sure brand owners are aware of all possible brand protection solutions will become more and more important as the supply as well as the demand of counterfeit goods grow. Brands face a variety of “costs” if subject to counterfeiting:

  • Erosion of brand value.
  • Reduction in consumer confidence.
  • Reduction in corporate profits.
  • Deprives governments of tax revenue.
  • Defrauds the consumer.
  • In some cases can lead to serious health risks.

Changing attitudes

Overall awareness of the need for brand protection has increased significantly over the past few years. When it comes to security, the message should definitely be to think proactive, not reactive.

Brand owners often find themselves having to police their product in the market place and cost is usually a key factor for those considering security solutions, but counteirfeiting is now such a stark reality, that this issue can no longer be ignored.

Simply putting a hologram on packaging or labels and thinking that will do the trick is tailing off in favour of applying covert features that a trained inspector can authenticate in the field. Using a “yes-no” authentication device offers more reliability to the brand owner versus a visual check.

The market need

It is clear that different levels of security are needed for different types of products and packaging. Brands need flexible solutions that could address the required level of sophistication whilst successfully countering the threat in a cost effective way.

A multi-layered approach to security allows brand owners the flexibility to add and remove security features as required, which in turn allows them to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiter. These layers could range in sophistication without compromising the level of protection.

Possible solutions

Sun Chemical supports the metal packaging market by offering a range of anti-counterfeit and authentication solutions to make items more difficult to copy and enable brand owners and government officials to check if products are genuine or fake.

Essentially all security solutions can be grouped into two segments. Overt technologies are added for consumer verification purposes, for example holograms, thermochromic and colourshift inks. These are visible features and do not require detection.

Covert technologies need to be detected through a reading device. These include technologies such as:

  • UV readable inks and coatings.
  • IR responsive inks and coatings requiring a reader.
  • Hidden security software feature viewed by low cost lens.

Within these overt and covert technologies, the levels of protection solutions range from first level to a high level of security. The most effective security solutions for metal packaging are covert technologies, which are integrated into the inks used for printing. Covert solutions offer increased security compared to overt solutions and are viewed as the second line of defence. First level covert solutions include technologies such as SunGuard UV Responsive lnks, which utilise readily available detection equipment for authentication. These are supplied as two types of fluorescent security ink:

  • Invisible fluorescent inks are virtually invisible in daylight but exhibit distinct fluorescent shades on exposure to UV light.
  • Coloured fluorescent inks are visible in normal light but have a strong fluorescence under UV light.

High-level covert solutions will contain some form of taggant that is only visible or detectible through more sophisticated detection devices, which range from laser pens through to dedicated readers with controlled distribution.
Sun Chemical’s taggant solution for metal packaging comes in the form of SunGuard Apollo and Verigard.

The SunGuard Apollo taggant is a highly robust security pigment that can be authenticated by using miniature LED readers. When in sufficient quantity, the taggant can also be detected by a special infrared laser pen which will cause the taggant to emit a bright visible light. This taggant is not visible when incorporated into an ink or varnish and cannot be detected by using a UV light source.

The Verigard technology offers a lock and key approach to securing and authenticating brand packaging and documents of value. Using machine readable taggants and readers available only from Sun Chemical this is a highly effective system of covert marking and verification for both visible and hidden ink applications. The system works by tuning a handheld reader to look for and correctly identify a unique combination of taggants that have been introduced into otherwise standard inks or varnishes. Metal packaging printers are able to use these inks without having to adjust or replace any press equipment or process lines as the products are supplied as standard inks suitable for all substrates and applications, which makes security a realistic option for all brand owners.

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