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 Counterfeiters are looking to ride on the goodwill of high-volume products from the big name brands.
Counterfeiters are looking to ride on the goodwill of high-volume products from the big name brands.

Securities in packaging


Pagemark Africa - Jun 12th, 15:32

While most fakes and counterfeits have typically been manufactured in China, other regions like India are also a common place for counterfeits to originate from. These days, it’s becoming more common to see counterfeiters working in countries where they operate.

This is because customs departments are more aware of the issue and tend to question the import of certain types of goods. This is especially predominant when they are aware that the goods can be locally manufactured. In other words, why would a brand owner import a product they manufacture locally already.

These goods are, for example, bottled water, cleaning products, etc. Many counterfeit imported goods also do not list the full details of the destination brand owner and are therefore questionable. Counterfeiters tend to bring goods in through other easier ports of entry, with goods hidden along with other shipment types or in smaller batches that are not so easy to detect at ports of entry.

Producing these counterfeit goods locally means that they can hit the market without a barrier of entry like a port and although it is difficult to say how big the problem is, one thing is for sure, the issue is rapidly growing, with the ability of criminals to access top quality machinery and reproduce replicas very close to the original products these days is amazing.

You name it, we have seen fake of anything. Some are so bizarre to see, like toilet paper, spices, bottled water, etc. Sure, in the past the fakes were luxury brand fashion accessories and digital media like CD’s, DVD’s, PC games and the likes, but with the internet and access to online fake products, this is recently not so much the case.

Counterfeiters are looking to ride on the goodwill of high-volume products from the big name brands. These are easy targets, and as long as they look as close to the original and do much the same job, who would know. Why would you question toilet paper for example if it still seems to do what it is supposed to do?

The big concern products are in pharmaceuticals and food. These are because medicines are supposed to cure us, and food to keep us healthy. Ingesting things that do not cure us and can cause severe illness and death should scare us all. Sure, fake automotive parts too can kill if they are safety critical, for instance, brake pads or seat belts, but food being one of the fastest growing product groups should be alarming. How can you tell for example if an apple is safe to eat? Was it made in a location where it is safe to eat because care was taken from how it was grown? Or was it made in another country using pesticides, chemicals, and other factors? These may not be suitable for human consumption. Was it grown using environmentally acceptable means and not using forced labour or other concerning issues?

As long as there are bad people out there, we will have companies making a business out of helping the brand owners fight back. There are several great technologies and solutions available, but a brand protection strategy has to be looked at, not as a once off solutions, but rather as a phased approach, which is constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs that arise over time.

For example, if a brand owner had to put a UV ink mark on a product to identify if the product is theirs, it may not take long until the counterfeiters find this out and start copying that too. Some security technologies I would not wish to mention, without giving too much away, but it’s safe to say that some technologies would make it incredibly difficult to replicate.

With modern technology and connectivity in mobile devices, there are exciting things to be done with this technology. Be careful though, some standard barcodes or QR codes on a product can direct you to a different landing page, making the fake product seem genuine.

It used to be simple enough by looking at the packaging for things like spelling mistakes, poor print quality or the likes. For a while, a simple thing like a holographic label would help, but not any longer. Brand protection requires a few security solutions being on the product at the same time. Its almost like bank notes where many features need to be on a product.

The trouble is that the level of sophistication by organized crime to produce near perfect copies makes the general public convinced the product is genuine. Many brand owners are starting to use serialization to create uniqueness in products so that no two items are the same in terms of the traceability information.

Security features help, but only when consumers are informed about what to look out for, and this is where some brand owners fail. They want to fight the fakes but do not want to cause alarm on one of their products for fear of the general public turning away from the product and losing sales.

When serialization, machine-readable codes and consumer engagement come together, brands can actually gain consumer trust and increase loyalty.

For now, though, consumers should “Trust but verify”, or be cautious and question, where possible, if they are unsure about the product in any way.

The adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”, is not working as fakes are now sold at the same prices as original products and thus, thinking you are not getting a great deal means the counterfeiters are raking in a lot more money.

The South African government does have measures in place, but is it enough? No.

What can be done though, as this problem is growing faster than expected, and departments cannot grow as quickly as the problems arise? Sure, things are being done, and a good fight is in play, but the speed of change with counterfeiters is far greater than what the good guys can keep up with. They can change from one brand of fake product to another in an instant.

A big challenge is for all players to work together. Brand owners, legal firms, copyright protection agencies, port officials, police, justice system and consumers. Everyone has a part to play in fighting this. The most power should be and is moving more towards the consumer. This is where it should be, as they are the ones who need protection from these counterfeits.

The range that PageMark Africa can offer is very wide and can be simple and very cost effective, to complex and costly. Simple solutions and technologies that can start a program can typically be overt and/or covert technologies but complimented in with things like 2D codes.

Combining technologies like a 2D code, but also another random alphanumeric code on a product can give some degree of security, but then making the other marking with Ultraviolet inks or an Optically Variable Device (OVD) just takes it to a deeper level. Of course, one can go down to forensically verifiable traces in inks, and even into the product itself. The range of solutions we offer and how cost-effective they can be is one of our big strengths. What we do, and how we do it, is a strength and how long we have been doing it, allows our clients to know they are getting all possible options and the ability to adapt, change or add other components as and when required.
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