By Cassandra Balentine
One major issue brand owners face today is counterfeiting. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, supplements, and luxury goods are particularly vulnerable. Security measures in packaging help address the issue. Valuable and sensitive documents, including items like tickets and contracts are also improved with security measures implemented by the print provider.
Patrick White, CEO, VerifyMe, Inc., says counterfeiters are winning the war because not enough brand owners know how to combat it. “Brand owners have to learn that certain technologies are weak and certain technologies work.”
Print providers have many options when it comes to anti-tampering and anti-counterfeit solutions. “Fortunately, combating counterfeiters requires not much more than what today’s sophisticated printers are already capable of doing—adding unique differentiators to their prints that are difficult to match,” shares Yuji Fujiwara Buchan, senior portfolio manager, production toner sheet-fed color and B&W systems CIP product marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc.
Above: Mactac offers a range of security labels to address product tampering.
A Trillion-Dollar Problem
Counterfeiting is increasing at an alarming rate and could reach $1.8 trillion by 2020, according to the Research and Markets study, Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, 2018.
Kent Mansfield, chief sales and marketing officer, Authentix, says counterfeit operations have evolved to large, well-funded, sophisticated organizations that stretch to multiple countries. “They survive on easy access to technology and domain expertise to compete with legitimate and illegitimate businesses. Companies have learned—many the hard way—that not implementing security for those products deemed at risk adversely affects the bottom line and potentially the health and well-being of consumers.”
In addition to the brand’s reputation, it is important to consider the chain of effects a counterfeit product can have on those that inadvertently purchase it. Jason Grady, COO, Document Security Systems, Inc. (DSS), provides examples, if you are mom and you purchase counterfeit baby food for your child; he or she could become ill. If you are a farmer and you purchase counterfeit fertilizer, your crops may not grow. If you are a mechanic and use counterfeit parts, accidents could happen. “These counterfeit products can make their way into the supply chain at many points. Our goal is to help identify the counterfeit product, whether in the supply chain or in the hands of the consumer.”
Michael Poulin, director of product marketing, production print solutions, Canon Solutions America, points out that a range of print products are at risk for counterfeiting, including documents like bank checks, identification documents, legal agreements, transcripts, coupons, diplomas, and books. “Print service providers (PSPs) need to take measures to safeguard these essential documents.”
Owners and producers of both luxury brands and highly popular goods fight a constant battle against counterfeiting. “Whether it is perfumes, pharmaceutical products, high-quality brands, game cards, or lottery and entry tickets, counterfeiting has become a billion dollar business,” comments Jeroen Van Bauwel, director, print management, Xeikon.
Products for PSPs
Print providers have access to both overt and covert features, enabling a layered approach to document security. “Today’s digital printing technology provides options that print directly onto plain paper, incorporate variable data, and trigger embedded security features into a document—all in one pass,” shares Poulin.
Many production press manufacturers offer overt security solutions that are visible to the naked eye, including specialty inks, magnetic ink character recognition, and micro text or micro printing. Additionally, covert features found in digital inks and toners offer invisible characters that are only recognized with a special device or application, like holographic and color change inks.
“Brand owners not only use a range of overt and covert techniques to track and trace their products from the production site onwards, they also do whatever they can to reduce liabilities, prevent severe harm to their brand reputations, and stop losing millions in unsold products. They absolutely need integrated solutions designed to protect against counterfeiting, fraudulent importing, and product tampering,” notes Van Bauwel.
Hidden secure print solutions, including pantographs and infrared printing make it difficult to successfully copy. “Pantographs go a step further and indicate when a copy is actually made and thus counterfeit, discouraging the counterfeiter from continuing,” says Eric Thibodeau, director, customer and field engagement, Xerox Corporation.
Digital printing also supports variable data elements on packaging and labels, allows for unique item-level data collection, enhanced graphics and images, and the potential to enable high-end security features, making each print registration unique and secure at a more cost-effective rate. “This helps combat counterfeiting because the brand owner can switch out security and brand protection features on the fly at any time, allowing for a customized product packaging piece. This also helps with multiple SKU items that need short runs,” shares Mansfield.
Today’s digital printing technologies offer an abundance of features and functions that help protect a brand owner’s product. “Having the ability to print random patterns or using a high-output resolution to print ever-varying decorative techniques such as guilloches with irregular patterns are common techniques to discourage forgers from attacking a brand,” offers Van Bauwel. He explains that the high resolution also enables micro-text printing. “With this functionality it is possible to print text so small that it becomes hard to copy, duplicate, or reproduce the specific hidden messages or codes introduced into the layout. The lack of visibility to the naked eye also makes it possible to introduce micro-text in lineart and other overlayout elements without knowledge of the consumer or potential counterfeiter. In this way, these covert messages carry the potential to authenticate the document or packaging by simple visual enlargement of the element with a magnifying glass. In order to further optimize this feature, micro-text can be used as a security raster in an image or design element.”
The use of micro printing is available to almost any printer, but Grady says this is sometimes overlooked as too basic. Micro printing uses one or more of the colors already in use and is easy to validate with a magnifying glass. Coatings and varnishes accentuate selected areas to appear obvious to the casual observer. “Basic it may be, but also effective enough to be widely utilized on passports, currencies, licenses, vital records, and stamps as a first layer of image security,” he shares.
Fujiwara Buchan says invisible red toner is increasingly popular with PSPs due to its simplicity to produce. “It is ideal for entry-level security applications including coupons, tickets, and promotional materials.”
Tamper-evident labels are another solution. For example, Mactac offers security labels that enable a single or multi-layered defense against counterfeiting, tampering, and authentication. The company offers several security label stocks, including Tamper-Evident Void, Destructible, Non-Vinyl Destructible, Non-Residue Security, Fluorescent Void, and Breakaway Labels, as well as Holographic label stock.
PSPs should be well versed on the counterfeiting risks printed products are vulnerable to, and be ready to offer solutions. An added incentive is that print providers can capitalize on these capabilities and offerings.
“Print providers need to proactively educate customers about the importance of security features and how easy it is to integrate with the right software,” stresses Thibodeau.
Print providers can make use of several anti-counterfeiting techniques and should discuss them with their customers. “Most of these tools are available at a low cost, since many are part of the production printing process. This means there is little requirement for extra investments or special, expensive fraud detection systems. Brand owners and companies all over the world make use of dry toner technology to fight counterfeiting, often in a mixed combination with expert printing. By combining several protection features, counterfeiting will face increasingly higher technical thresholds and become more expensive and less prone to happen,” shares Van Bauwel.
“In any business, it’s important to know your customers’ needs as if they are your own. Your success is dependent on their success and vice versa. We recommend talking with customers about their counterfeiting concerns. Find out how pervasive it is, or how minimal. Ask questions about their go-to-market strategy and the skill sets of their operators. The more you know about their needs, and more importantly the needs of their end customers, the more well-equipped you’ll be to provide them with the right answer and the stronger your alliance will become moving forward,” states Fujiwara Buchan.
It is increasingly easier for print providers to participate in anti-counterfeit efforts. For example, DSS has set up a DSS Certified Printer Program. This program allows the printer to be trained on all secure print technologies, as well as the smartphone Authentiguard System. The printer, once certified, has the ability to demonstrate the technologies to its customers and bring in DSS to analyze and prioritize an entire solution for its customers, shares Grady.
Ralph Giammarco, VP, S-One Labels & Packaging, points out that adding printed authentication and track-and-trace capabilities is a value-added opportunity for PSPs. “For HP Indigo users it’s as simple as purchasing the ink canisters for their presses and mastering variable data processing for print jobs,” he adds.
Mansfield believes print providers should be knowledgeable about the different types of anti-counterfeiting solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into existing print and packaging processes, including conventional and digital techniques. “Many of these features can be added with little or no disruption to existing processes,” he offers.
It is essential for PSPs to understand the different levels of security, varying ink technologies, numerous physical marks, tamper-evident sales, and other specialized features that can be applied to all types of packaging, and how they will provide protection to printed products, resulting in quick detection, quantification of the problem, and enabling a course of enforcement, shares Mansfield.
Poulin suggests PSPs work with their OEMs to see what security workflow and features are available based on the types of documents they print. They should also educate themselves in industry forums, conferences, and webinars.
Beni Fish, marketing manager, Besecure Ltd., agrees, noting that print providers should build in-house knowledge and expertise, implement working processes, and demonstrate to clients their anti-counterfeit capabilities.
Brand Owner Burden
While PSPs benefit from taking the reins on anti-counterfeit solutions for their printed products, brand owners have a lot at stake.
There are several questions Grady suggests brand owners ask of print providers to help them determine whether or not they should work with them on sensitive document printing. These include whether or not they have experience with anti-counterfeit solutions for other brands/agencies, what security features they have in their tool box, if they have live samples of security features in action, and which trade associations they belong to that focus on counterfeiting. They should also ask for customer references.
Brand owners should talk to print providers about the brand’s experience or anticipated counterfeiting or security concerns. “From a brand’s perspective, they should be asking for the ability to print unique marks or invisible marks. They should also ask if global track-and-trace capabilities are available,” offers Giammarco.
Mansfield suggests brand owners request customizable and compatible solutions that can be piloted and proven prior to implementation. “Also, when computing the overall cost of the program, solution providers should provide indicative pricing during the early design and specification stages.”
Brand owners should be convinced that the print provider is offering a proven anti-counterfeiting technology that is easy to integrate into the product and can be used as a proof of authentication, shares Fish.
Counterfeiting is a real problem for brand owners. Print providers can help ease concerns by building knowledge of the tools and strategies available to deter illegal reproductions of printed products—from secure and sensitive documents to luxury product packaging.
Jan2020, DPS Magazine