Staying ahead of the Pirates: According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Directory (IACD) in association with the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce), the estimate for global counterfeiting is 5-7% of international trade, equivalent to over $500 billion.Counterfeit products rated in value of seized goods by the US Customs and Boarder Protection authority measured by value of seizure include footware, handbags, pharmaceuticals, apparel, consumer electronics, sunglasses, computers and technology components, perfumes, cigarettes, media and other consumer goods and commodities including health care, beverages and food products.

A wide range of technology is offered today to help fight counterfeiting including DOVID’s, RFID, Taggants, Security inks and coatings, Security substrates, films and foils and Security printing. Many devices are offered today to protect and authenticate brands, including holograms used on packaging, seals and labels.

These were once one of the most secure form of identification, however given that holograms are easily reproduced using advanced printing technology and with reduced cost and ready availability of hologram manufacturing equipment, the counterfeiters are able to invest, copy and replicate existing packaging and sell these as the original product.

According to a study published in the Lancet, 38% of shop-bought oral artesunate malaria drug sampled in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma where fake. In Laos, 19 of 22 pharmacies selling artesunate where fake. These are sold in blisterpacks with fake holograms that were indistinguishable from the genuine hologram. The problem is however not isolated to emerging countries or to pharmaceutical products alone.

Secure solutions: A key emerging technology to help protect brands and assure authenticity within the security field is micro-optics. These are new optical technologies such as micro-optical arrays known as optical variable devices. They offer new levels of protection with high levels of customization with the ability to provide several layers of security (overt, covert, forensic).The main advantage being that there are no tools needed to verify. The device is clear and distinct with no special lighting needed and unlike holograms, the technology is so specialized there are high barriers to entry. Replication is virtually impossible.

According to Pira, micro-optical arrays are the second most important disruptive technology available today for the authentication and securitization of products. These micro-optic products use micro-optics to create distinctive optical effects and the principle of moiré magnification to enlarge tiny graphics to make them visible to the naked eye.

These devices are gaining ground as they are being used today for both brand protection and for high security applications such as bank-note substrates, passports and ID cards. Micro-optics technology provide proprietary mastering, tooling and manufacturing processes which are complex and virtually impossible to replicate to the physical and manufacturing complexity.

As micro-optics are not based on diffractive methods, they cannot be replicated using current replication technologies used by counterfeiters for copying holograms. The only way to replicate would be to steal the origination and the tooling and to copy the extremely complex and secretive, patented manufacturing processes.


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Figure 1. Hologram on packaging for antimalarial drug Artesunate which is widely counterfeited.

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Figure 2. Items seized by customs, source: the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau

Micro-optics: Rolling Optics micro-optic security foils create highly visible effects giving a 3D effect. The designs can be customized so that images can appear at several layers and appear to be floating beneath or above the surface of the foil. The foils can be easily adapted to current corporate or brand guidelines. Images can be placed in such a way so that they appear to disappear or move when tilted or rotated. Images can be made to appear and disappear. The foils can easily be placed on existing packaging showing the images on the pack (barcodes etc) or placed alone for any given effect. Added security features can easily be added and third party features can be integrated or bundled into the final product for added levels of complexity and security.