Digital Magazine

Crime Stoppers

Product manufacturers today — whether for high-value perfumery, wines and spirits, baby foods, or even motor oils or car parts — are facing a real battle to make sure what they deliver to the consumer on the supermarket shelf is their genuine branded product — not tampered with and not a harmful counterfeit. It is a fact that in current listings of leading global brands, counterfeit goods are right up there alongside Coca-Cola. This is a horrifying statistic, but in the matter of protecting the brand, counterfeiting is not the only problem. Criminals have developed many other methods of defiling an ethical product.

The criminal activities of identity thieves tend to hit the headlines when they are specifically related to public health issues. Food and drug adulteration and tampering are major concerns.

Genuine brand packaging can be collected and cleaned, refilled with a substance other than the original product, and resold. Counterfeit ethical pharmaceuticals that are no better than a placebo — or worse, dangerous to the patient — and the insidious implications of co-mingling genuine and counterfeit branded products on the retail shelf are all happening today.

But while these health-related instances evoke the most interest and indignation, intellectual property theft at other levels also is damaging to our society in different ways. Piracy — copyright infringement — is a good example.

Low-priced computer software, “copy” watches, and designer handbags could never be the real thing. And even if they are not exact copies, only simulation, there is a ready, profitable market for them on the street. Another tack often taken by thieves is to divert a product at some point in its normal supply chain and sell it through unapproved outlets — again at enormous profit.

Globally, it is estimated that counterfeiting is a $600 billion/yr problem to business. In the US, the value of counterfeit goods seizures alone amounted to nearly $197 million. So what can be done, and what is being done to thwart the criminals who are devaluing brands and endangering human health?

Finding a Solution

Genuine brand manufacturers are, understandably, taking every possible practical step to protect their products — not just through monitoring the manufacturing and distribution chain, but critically at item level, via packaging and labels. Devising a security system that will work in a specific situation demands in-depth analysis at a variety of levels — risk assessment, verification and investigation techniques, etc. — to identify the right route or routes to achieving and verifying the required results on a solid, sustainable basis.

Indeed, an effective product authentication/anti-counterfeiting solution today will constitute a layered package of different overt and covert features. This makes life as difficult as possible for the criminals.

Packaging: A Prime Vehicle for Product Authentication

Packaging as a whole has proved to be the ideal carrier for all kinds of security messaging — both visible to the naked eye and, more importantly, visible only via special security reading equipment. This is an area in which converting companies can develop and deliver expertise that can create new, high-margin business for them.

In fact, it is the converting industry that delivers many of the functional solutions in the anti-counterfeiting equation today. Keeping ahead of the sophisticated criminals and counterfeiters will mean adapting and evolving the “cocktail” of solutions on a regular basis. Converters can expect requests to sign confidentiality agreements — with the added advantage that they are locked into the brand owner's supplier loop.

The technologies, products, and services available are extremely varied, and the choice of available solutions is increasing every year. There are now hundreds of companies offering interesting brand protection technologies, as well as several well-established international trade associations to guide brand owners and converters through the selection process.

Solutions in the Substrate & in the Print

Specialist security papers and films featuring invisible security features — watermarks, taggants, “void” constructions, etc. — provide the kind of base-level protection that counterfeiters often forget, even though they may be experts in fake holograms, packaging print, and bar codes. These can, of course, be incorporated into self-adhesive security labeling laminates that, in addition to performing their product identification function, can be engineered to include brand security devices in the facestock and adhesive or can in themselves provide overt tamper evidence.

Partnering the substrates are many print consumables that offer a variety of possibilities for layered overt and covert security devices. Security inks used with the traditional print processes are useful.

Color-changing inks include thermochromic, chemichromatic, and coin-reactive inks. Inks that react to a special situation or a particular viewer device, such as magnetic, ultraviolet/infrared readable, fluorescent, erasable, and bleach indicators, perform their functions in the invisible spectrum.

Intaglio printing, invisible inkjet and laser markers, and security thermal transfer ribbons are other options. Stamping foils also can contribute enormously to the provision of security features — there are invisible UV fluorescent qualities, diffraction foils, two- and three-dimensional holograms and dot matrix holograms, and magnetic foils.

Visible Devices

The consumer is very familiar with overt security devices that reassure the customer as well as provide differing degrees of functionality. Over-the-neck paper seals on jars and bottles, made from papers that tear easily, and tear tapes on other package types provide ready evidence of prior opening and possible tampering.

Optically variable devices such as holograms are popular. Other first-level devices include “void” constructions, which unveil a hidden message on the label when tampering has occurred.

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Security identifiers such as unique sequentially printed numbers, bar codes, and bank-note print and similar devices also are used. For electronic, electrical, and automotive components, laser etching directly into the product itself is a recent and effective visible solution.

Invisible Devices

However, it is in the invisible spectrum of product authentication devices that the highest levels of security are achieved. Alongside the extensive bank of generic solutions are the proprietary covert devices and systems chosen by the world's leading brand manufacturers and manufacturers of high-value electronics and other goods to give unique, top-level authentication of their products. These solutions often will demand a cradle-to-grave closed security chain across the whole production and logistics process — even involving press systems integration.

The options include special functional features in the substrate itself, and this is particularly relevant for papers whose “recipe” can be varied during production and during finishing as well as on the printing press. In papers, solvent-sensitivity, or sensitivity to other chemicals, can provide a good, instant indication of authenticity. Duplex (fugitive) chemical-sensitive colors applied to a paper also provide visible evidence when chemical alteration is attempted.

Another in-substrate solution is the inclusion of a unique watermark in a paper package or label; and invisible printed artificial watermarks, applied in patterns to a paper substrate, resist scanning and photocopying but become visible with the use of a viewer.

Planchettes — small specks of paper or film — can be randomly distributed in a paper substrate or limited to a specific area to make copying challenging. They can be specially treated to respond to light and temperature.

Fibers of different colors and lengths can be added during the papermaking process. Visible on both sides of the paper, they also complicate copying.


Many types of taggants can be used within substrates to provide authentication. Forensic taggants such as DNA, other nano-particles, and metal or nylon security threads can be incorporated in the package substrate or in the label.

Partnered with a range of special reading devices, these measures can provide rock-solid authentication of a branded product that counterfeiters will be seriously challenged to replicate. Authenticity checking at every level of the supply chain can reduce and even eliminate the likelihood of diversion or other criminal intervention.


Finally, retail pilferage also is reduced by electro-magnetic tags used in electronic article surveillance systems. They alert the security gates at the store exit if they have not been past the checkout scanner.

If there is any conclusion to be drawn from an evaluation of the product authentication and brand security market today, it is that there is no single “magic bullet.” Solutions that are affordable and suitable for a toothpaste tube would not be sufficient for a highly desirable scent or other high-value beauty product or for a critical automotive component.

Generally speaking, the strength and value of the brand — whether it is an ethical pharmaceutical, a designer bag, or a high-technology car part — are the strongest drivers for multi-layer, on-package security. Creating these solutions can be a profitable niche for packaging converters and one that can only grow, given the global nature of the problem.

Dr. William Llewellyn is VP and senior consultant with AWA Alexander Watson Assoc., Amsterdam, Netherlands, a market research firm specializing in packaging and converting. Contact him at +31 20 676 20 60; www.awa-bv.com.

Want To Learn More?

AWA Conferences & Events are the organizers of PABS09, the product authentication and brand security conference, taking place in Chicago October 26-27. For further information and online registration, visit the website, www.awa-bv.com.

Line Produces Secure Phone Scratch-Off Cards

A single-pass scratch telephone card printing line from Edale Ltd. recently has been installed at a plant in Vietnam. The system offers secure phone card production and has the capacity to produce in excess of 200,000 finished scratch cards/hr.

The system incorporates many features, including high-quality multi-color print stations, drying towers, turn bar, roll lift, web cleaner, and three rotary die stations. Digital inkjet stations print PIN and serial numbers onto each card, while video verification cameras monitor every card for print legibility and the quality of the scratch-off panel. The cameras also relay information back to the controller, which checks the information against the job's database to ensure there are no errors with the data, providing a full integrity system.

Scratch-off inks and release varnish are applied to the cards using further flexographic print stations, and tall drying towers accommodate the combination infared and ultraviolet dryers. In addition to phone card production, the system also provides an A4 duplex transactional mail system, which is said to be unique in its dual application capability.

Edale Ltd. | www.edale.com
Circle 318 or visit www.freeproductinfo.net/pff

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In-Paper Security Features
 Hidden (Covert)
Chemical Sensitive Stains In-paper color indicators that react with chemicals to provide recognizable signs of attempted alteration. Multiple indicators should be used for improved security.
Duplex (Fugitive) Colors Chemical-sensitive color applied to one side of the paper (usually the back side) that forms a detectable spot when chemical alteration is attempted.
Invisible Fluorescent Fibers Integrated, randomly placed fibers that cannot be scanned or photocopied and are visible only under black (UV) light. These fibers easily verify document authenticity and can be viewed from both sides of the paper.
A Instant Authentication (PenTick Plus)* An in-paper feature that uses a reactant pen (swiper) to create a mark that disappears in seconds. This feature instantly verifies the original without harming legibility.
Taggants Microscopic particles added during paper manufacturing. Under normal light, taggants are invisible but become visible in various colors when viewed under UV light or a special reader.
Toner Bonding (Toner Fuse II)* Coatings applied to the finished paper that securely anchor toner to the paper, making removal impossible without causing visible damage to the paper.
Visible (Overt)
C Artificial Watermark Opaque printed image applied to finished papers in various patterns that resist scanning and photocopying while offering easy visual recognition. Watermark appears when held at an angle away from the viewer.
LineMark* Patented paper machine marking system that generates parallel lines that can appear darker or lighter depending on whether viewed in reflected or transmitted light. Feature cannot be scanned or photocopied and offers protection against cut-and-paste attempts.
C Planchette Small pieces of plastic or paper that are randomly distributed in the paper or limited to a specific area. Planchettes complicate copying and can be specially treated to respond to light and temperature.
C Security Threads Fully embedded ribbon-like thread in the paper that will not copy. Thread may include printed message text or respond to temperature/light.
True Watermark A feature created by the paper machine by altering fibers during sheet formation, producing a distinctive mark that is visible in reflected and transmitted light but will not scan or copy. Also offers protection against cut-and-paste attempts.
A UV Dull Reduces or eliminates brighteners from the paper, lowering its reflectance properties. Authentication is possible by comparing originals to ordinary copy bond paper.
C Visible Fibers Randomly placed fibers of various lengths and colors that are visible on both sides of the paper, which complicates copying.
On-Paper Security Features
F Coin-Reactive Ink Ink that changes color when exposed to abrasion.
Crosshatch Patterns Feature printed in transparent pastel colors on finished papers; makes copying and cut-and-paste attempts difficult. Usually washes away upon contact with bleach.
Hologram Optically variable device that provides a three-dimensional effect and is very difficult to scan or copy. Typically applied as an “add-on.”
A Individual Numbering This simple method of numbering individual print pieces complements other printed security methods and helps provide accountability for all pieces.
Infrared Invisible Ink Printing that is invisible to the naked eye and cannot be copied; easily verifies authenticity with use of a special viewer.
Metameric Ink Pairs of ink colors that change when brought together as light position shifts, allowing for easy identification while making scanning and copying impossible.
Micro-Printing Words are printed so small that they appear as a line to the naked eye. Only when magnified do the micro-printed words become visible.
Void Pantograph A pantograph screen that has the word “VOID” hidden in it created by using special screens and background designs. When photocopied by a color copier, the word “VOID” appears on the copied document.
Thermo-chromic Ink Printing that disappears when warmed by the touch of a finger, making a document's authenticity immediately verified.
UV Fluorescent Ink Printing invisible to the naked eye but glows in the presence of a black light. Provides immediate verification of authenticity.

Fraud Protection Definitions:

C Counterfeit | To create a copy of the original document in order to perpetuate fraud.

F Forgery | To remove or alter document information in order to perpetuate fraud.

A Authentication | To verify a document as an original.

*Fraud protection exclusive to Appleton.
Chart courtesy Appleton, Appleton, WI.
©2009 Appleton

Solutions For Tobacco Products

Members of the Brand Protection Alliance (www.brandprotectionalliance.org) report a number of technology platforms to ensure product authentication for the tobacco industry:

  • KURZ Transfer Products' Trustseal technology can be incorporated into tax stamps and tear tape using special foils. Transparent oriented polypropylene wrap with optical security elements can be used alone or in conjunction with tear tape. A customized Trustseal image also can be hot stamped or cold transferred onto the board stock.
  • Atlantic Paper Co. offers Atla Secure C1S printable paper that contains two distinct ultraviolet-reactive fibers for authentication purposes. Atla Secure uncoated opaque paper contains three UV-reactive fibers and reacts to oxidants such as bleach.
  • Applied DNA Sciences uses its Biomaterial Genotyping platform to verify the origin and authenticity of naturally derived materials present in tobacco products. An alternative approach is its SigNature DNA markers that cannot be copied and provide forensic proof of identity. They can protect packaging by providing a DNA security ink on the printed surface and DNA-marked adhesive on the back of the label.

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