Anti-counterfeiting Tools: Making Sure the Product Is Genuine
The counterfeiter has no tie to a given product, a given brand or even a given industry. He is opportunistic. He moves from cigarettes to drugs to cell phones with amazing speed and flexibility. Brand owners must make it more attractive for the counterfeiter to move on to another brand than to counterfeit theirs. Remember, the counterfeiter is in business to make money as quickly and as easily as possible. A comprehensive and effective solution approach makes it difficult and expensive for the counterfeiter to effectively target a brand.
Authentication technologies place their own mark or physical "signature" on the product or package and are a key tool in combating counterfeiters. The proper use of authentication technologies can assist in securing products, and companies typically deploy these technologies as layered features to raise the time and investment risk for the counterfeiter. These layers serve different purposes in protecting product and brand integrity.
The first layer of security most commonly utilized is an overt technology like a hologram or color-shifting ink. These features are visible to the naked eye and give supply chain partners and consumers confidence in the authenticity of the goods they are selling and buying. They also send a clear signal to counterfeiters that the manufacturer is taking measures to secure its brand and products. However, since overt features can be seen, they can also be removed, adulterated or mimicked. Most companies that employ multiple layers of security technologies plan for no more than six months of time before an overt layer is compromised.
Covert security solutions, like luminescent inks, magnetic threads, or physical or chemical "taggants," are hence layered within or along with the overt features to provide a means of authenticating the products or packaging, or further determining if an overt feature has been compromised. While often used in concert with other features, covert features are also valuable as standalone security measures when a brand owner does not want to signal to the public or supply chain participants that action has been taken.
Covert protective measures are not visible to the eye and require a specifically designed detector to validate the presence of the genuine feature. The covert mark and detector provide a secure "lock and key system" that can unambiguously determine the authenticity of the product or packaging it is meant to protect.
Manufacturers or investigators can use these concealed features to discern genuine product from counterfeits. Covert solutions enable definitive decision making in the field, saving the time and costs associated with investigations and seizures during the enforcement stages of anti-counterfeiting programs. They can also be used to validate claims for rebates, warranties and returns as products or documentation are returned and authenticated by a brand owner.
Covert protective measures are more difficult for counterfeiters to identify and reverse engineer, especially if they are not in possession of the detector. However, companies should still plan to vary these features over time to ensure they are always one step ahead of the counterfeiter.
Anti-diversion Tools: Ensuring Delivery through Authorized Channels
When given the opportunity, products migrate from small, lower-priced geographies to larger, more profitable geographies and channels. Clearly structured channel partner agreements, disciplined pricing practices and differentiated product packaging for each major geography or market are all fundamental good practices to maintain desired fences between markets and channels. However, many good supply chains are still vulnerable to diversion issues. Diversion is of particular concern because grey market goods are often "salted" with counterfeits.