Why Protecting Your Brand From Counterfeiting Matters

Aug. 11, 2008
One of every 10 technology products sold is counterfeit, leading to an estimated direct loss over $100 billion a year.

Counterfeiting is one of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world and therefore, is one of the most crucial areas for manufacturers to rigorously monitor. Corporations invest millions to protect against counterfeiting which, gone unprotected, can negatively impact revenue and ultimately, jeopardize a brand. As the underground trade continues to evolve, so too does the need for brand protection. Today, companies must rely on trusted experts to develop and maintain the best in brand protection technologies to ensure product authenticity for both consumers and corporations.

On July 11, Apple released the new iPhone 3G, and within three days sold over one million units, according to company officials. Yet days before the phone hit store shelves, hundreds of iPhone 3G counterfeits were available overseas for $150 or less, which is less than half of Apple's manufacturer suggested retail price. In fact, The Irish Times reported on July 11 that signs in Bangkok, Thailand's MBK Centre advertised hacked iPhones reading, "Good price, we unlock very fast."

According to Yottamark, a leader in security coding, one of every 10 technology products sold is counterfeit, leading to an estimated direct loss over $100 billion a year. What's more, over a two-week period in 2007, customs officials at U.S. borders seized more than 360,000 fake computer devices. From high-tech cell phones to toothbrushes, counterfeiting affects manufacturers, brands, employees and customers everyday, often unknowingly.

Corporations have been fighting the battle of counterfeiting for more than a decade. Most realize it is a full-time job and have a dedicated team to monitor and protect their most precious asset -- their brand. Additionally, many turn to trusted partners that specialize in protecting brands to help deter counterfeiters by utilizing brand protection solutions. Brand protection is the process of protecting the products, services, reputation, and ultimately, the brand by utilizing unique security coding technologies.

Developing Brand Protection Solutions

Brand Protection Solutions combat counterfeiting. Companies like Brady Corporation, an international manufacturer and marketer of solutions that identify and protect premises, products and people, have dedicated teams that research and develop anti-counterfeiting technologies to protect its customer's products. There are three primary technologies used to ensure unsurpassed product authenticity and supply chain control for manufacturers worldwide: overt, covert and semi-covert.

Overt features allow both manufacturers and consumers to clearly see a mark of authenticity. Ranging from holograms and color shifting ink or films to the next generation of overt technology, Unison Micro-Optic Film, consumers and manufacturers are able to locate a mark of authentication on the product, reinforcing the level of trust consumers have come to expect from the respective brand.

Covert features need to be authenticated with a unique tool or specific knowledge of what to look for, and include hidden bar codes and images, proprietary invisible security taggants (crystals), as well as lab detectable forensic coding to help brand owners clearly identify the authenticity of products. Using multiple covert solutions enables brand owners to closely control the supply chain by granting authenticity access at select points to selected participants in the chain.

Finally, semi-covert products, which include both overt and covert elements, blend both visible and non-visible protection to allow an additional layer of security, customizable to the level of protection needed.

Many brand protection partners offer a single covert, overt or semi-covert technology to fight the war against counterfeiting. But advanced companies in brand protection offer brand owners a unique, multi-layered approach that includes numerous technologies, customized to the product, to provide the highest level of trust and product security.

When looking for a trusted brand protection partner, consider the company's reach. Multi-national organizations are able to stay even one more step ahead of counterfeiters by monitoring and having access to emerging technologies and advanced counterfeiting strategies, globally. Subsequently, many leading brands in the consumer electronics and automotive industries turn to these trusted partners to deliver the best in layered brand protection.

The Future of Brand Protection

As counterfeiters continue to evolve, so does the need to be progressive in protection. Leading brand protection providers believe the future of brand protection lies in two key areas: strong and memorable overt technologies and encrypted mass serialization.

One of the latest technologies that leading brand protection partners like Brady is turning to is Unison Micro-Optic Film. This product is the next generation of overt technology. It provides unique visual effects with a proprietary, non-holographic image projection design, leaving memorable visuals that simplify the process of overt authentication. Visible in all lighting conditions, it is manufactured with tight security controls using a proprietary origination, tooling and manufacturing process, which allows for additional layering of overt, covert or tamper-indicating features to ensure optimum security.

In addition to Unison Film, experts believe encrypted serialization and barcoding is the future of brand protection. This evolving unit-level security technology enables the supply chain and consumers to authenticate products nearly instantaneously using a randomly generated serial number and/or 2-D matrix bar code, scanning with a cell phone or other device, and instantly verifying its authenticity.

One of the leading providers of encrypted security codes is Redwood City, Calif.-based YottaMark. The company helps inspectors, authorized law enforcement officials, and corporations defend against fraud, track illegal activity in the supply chain. In addition, their products allow consumers the opportunity to authenticate products via the Internet, secure Web-portals and mobile phones.

The world of counterfeiting is constantly changing. It is a world in which a product, within days of its launch, can be re-created and sold through an underground channel of counterfeiters, resulting in significant losses -- both financially and in terms of branding. And though there is no magic solution to fix the problem, utilizing brand protection tools can bring a sophisticated level of security and a sense of ease to manufacturers -- they can rest at night knowing their products are protected against the thieves that operate in the shadows.

Robert L. Tatterson, Ph.D. is Chief Technology Officer, Brady Corporation. Brady Corporation is an international manufacturer and marketer of complete solutions that identify and protect premises, products and people. www.bradysecurity.com.

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