The threat of counterfeiting has persisted over the millennia and this is always driven by substituting inferior, less costly ingredients, materials or components that provide the fakers with their profit and incentive to continue the crime.
In Germany a new quality initiative was introduced in 1516. By insisting that the ‘only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be barley, hops and water’ it ensured the quality of the product and threatened legal sanction against transgressors hundreds of years before anybody had heard of consumer protection laws.
Appropriately, one of the key reasons for the introduction of ‘Reinheitsgebot’ - to give the law its official German name - was to protect beer consumers. Five hundred years ago water supplies were often polluted so people drank beer, often in vast quantities, to keep thirst at bay.
Figure 10.1 - An early form of labeling and communicating a product’s ingredients was developed in 2000 BC
By ensuring beer contained only high-quality products the law protected the public from poor standard, and potentially lethal, beverages.
Reinheitsgebot also brought about standardization in production well ahead of its time. Foreign brewers who wanted to enter the local market also had to stick to the law and so its influence began to spread far and wide.
Quality and safety measures to protect against the risks associated with product related crime have evolved steadily over the years culminating in the introduction of many of the more sophisticated procedures today such as the BSI (British Standards Institute), UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and others which are overseen by the ISO (International Standards Organization).
The search for quality has also permeated the world of print and for the last quarter century the industry has striven towards systems and procedures that measure and test quality across the print shop floor and also into the administration areas of the business.
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT AND PROCEDURES WHEN PRODUCING SECURITY RELATED LABELS AND PACKAGING
The quality of labels and packaging used to protect and contain consumer goods offers a useful first indicator of product provenance. Conversely it can also be a guide to fake products as counterfeiters often make noticeable mistakes such as misspellings and poor color matching when copying packaging and labels.
Of course, poor quality fakes are pretty easily identified so counterfeiters now take more care over their attempts to copy such items more carefully.
Since quality is an important factor in deciding the provenance of security related packaging and labels, it stands to reason that every production batch of these items must be identical. By setting strictly controlled production guidelines and quality procedures it should be possible for the producer of such components to deliver identical copies during every production and subsequent production runs.
Managing quality will require a careful control of both materials and press settings in order to match different tranches in production and an agreed reference sample should be used to achieve this objective.
Since the reference sample will also carry all of the authentication ‘security’ devices specified by the client it follows that these should all be strictly monitored as well.
A word of warning is needed here.
The higher the number of security features included within the label or packaging design, the more complex the quality monitoring process becomes. This is because where there is a requirement for an authentication or other security feature (or features) to be present they must be existent on every production piece of packaging or labeling, otherwise the brand owners investment in a product protection system is nullified.
Therefore a careful balancing exercise is required in order to ensure that wastage is kept to a minimum during the set-up and make ready of each additional security feature present. This will also include on-line automated inspection procedures as well as manual quality controls such as sampling and viewing.
To assist in this process there are numerous on-line and offline auto-inspection systems for controlling color, checking print character and logo quality and monitoring invisible inks, hologram and foil position quality and bar code/clear coding performance. There are organizations that can help with advice and training in this area. In Europe, Intergraf has a section related to security printing quality and in the USA, NASPO (North American Security Products Association) offers similar advice and training.
PHYSICAL SECURITY REQUIRED IN PRODUCTION PLANTS
It is also important for producers of security related packaging and labeling to recognize the need to protect all the materials and waste within their production plant. Established suppliers in this market operate from secure premises that are guarded 24/7 and ensure that all their staff working within the areas producing security product are trustworthy and carry suitable identification credentials within the plant.
Access control must be monitored and staff logged into and out of sensitive areas within the production and storage areas.
It is also necessary to secure and monitor the perimeter of the plant and install CCTV in order to observe and record movements of staff and visitors.
General guidance in this area would also include securing all origination files and platemaking/imaging equipment, and overseeing the destruction (or secure storage) of printing plates at the completion of each job to ensure that they cannot be stolen or reused unofficially.
Likewise it is also good practice to audit and inspect those suppliers tasked with providing security inks and materials such as watermarked pressure sensitive papers and holographic stamping foils. Their production, storage and delivery systems must also be protected against the leakage of sensitive components that could be useful to those wanting to compromise or copy legitimate authentic labels or packaging.
Established practice in the security printing environment is to create a ‘chain of custody’ from the earliest moment in the supply chain where a compromise could occur. This means accounting for every foot of raw material through to every hologram on an individual basis to ensure that everything in the process is accounted for and recorded.
Records that are capable of being audited should register the length of each reel (or a counted number of sheets) in the production run together with an itemized account of all waste which should either be shredded immediately or placed in locked containers until it can be securely disposed of.
Numbering (or uniquely identifying each label or tag) is an important part of this process for more valuable items such as certificates of authenticity or labels that will be used as part of a controlled distribution of products that are to be protected by an authentication program.
In cases like this the boxes containing the finished labels should be security sealed with tamper evident tape and a record placed on each box recording or listing the numbers of the labels within the box.
Figure 10.2 - Numbering labels and tags is an important part of inventory control - as well as an authentication tool
The above pointers are provided as a general overall guide to securing a production plant that produces labels and packaging for applications that address product related crime threats. For more complete guidance those interested in this topic should consult with their chosen quality assurance provider/auditor.
Of course the importance of traceability should also extend along the full length of the distribution chain so that the ‘Chain of Custody’ is unbroken and authentication and product pedigree is preserved though each hand-over point in the sequence of events that take place right up to the point of final use by the consumer.
SECURITY IS A PROCESS, NOT AN END STATE
All security systems (whether conventional or print related) should be capable of deterring and defending against attack. If circumvented then security should be modified accordingly in order to mitigate against future attacks.
This continuous process requires a high degree of attention and also a firm plan that includes a clear path of what steps are required for on The primary purpose of authentication is to safeguard the legitimate supply chain against penetration of counterfeits and create a ‘chain of custody’ future upward migration should this be necessary.
Figure 10.3 - The process of securing the supply chain
There are four steps involved in the security process: assessment, protection, detection, and response.
Assessment is the leader of the process because it helps to prepare for the remaining three components.
Assessment deals with any policies, procedures, laws, regulations, budgeting, and managerial duties including technical evaluation of the security status and risk involved to each product/package/label in the brand portfolio.
A failure to account for any of these can compromise the flow of other operations in the process.
Next is protection. Protection is when countermeasures are applied to help limit the likelihood of compromise to the product occurring. This will involve the introduction of security features that protect against the threats of counterfeiting, tampering, dilution etc.
Protection and prevention may both be used interchangeably.
Detection comes after protect/prevention in the process. Detection is when policy violations or security incidents are identified. This will occur during a routine inspection process in the field or through a customer complaint or other related intelligence such as notification from border protection (customs) agencies.
The final step in this process is response. Response can be defined as the process of validating the fruits of detection and taking steps to remediate IP infringements such as counterfeiting or diversion. This will often involve the use of legal co-operation and the pursuit of any culprits through the courts.
It is at this point in the process that the careful choice of security features will become beneficial since third parties such as customs, investigators and legal teams will find it more useful to communicate the procedures required to correctly identify a counterfeit via a given security feature on the label than if they have to inspect each product individually and follow instructions for identifying specific visual or weight deviations in quality.
Likewise expert witnesses will find it easier to compare (in courts of law) such security features that are present on the original products with those that are not present or imperfect on the fake goods.
A detailed illustration (Figure 10.4) provides a more comprehensive view of how the process functions.
Figure 10.4 - The importance of developing a holistic strategy that encompasses the various levels of security and the tooling necessary to authenticate each device
This process should be completed in conjunction with the perceived risks identified in the assessment process; counterfeiting, diversion, tampering etc..
THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING AND THE VALUE OF NOTHING – COST VS. ROI
The playwright Oscar Wilde is famous for his observation that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
In the world of product security it should be recognized that no brand owner is likely to adopt a security system if it does not offer a return on investment (ROI). This fact of life can often be lost to those developing a new approach to protecting labels and packaging from product related crime.
Therefore, solutions that reduce or nullify the risks associated with tampering, counterfeiting, diversion et al will need to be measured against the savings or contribution they make to the overall well-being of the brand and also the consumer.
In a world where brands are constantly competing for market share and attempting to influence consumers through engagement and social media, it has never been more vital for brands to ensure that they keep their promises. Such promises may involve performance, safety and quality, all of which will be promoted on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Bad news can travel almost instantly through these channels, so brands need to be constantly aware of the risks they face if a crisis situation such as a counterfeit attack occurs.
Risk management will not only involve the assessment of consumer risk but also the effects that detrimental news such as a tampering or dilution event will have on overall value of the business. Shareholders are an important stakeholder in the value of a business and any event that reduces their return will also require a degree of consideration.
It should therefore be appreciated that it is not always possible to place an exact financial value on the extra investment necessary to protect a product from the risks identified.
It is also possible that such risks themselves will only become evident after a successful initial attack and at that point the incentive to respond is much stronger and therefore easier to cost justify – especially if a claim for damages is taken up against the brand owner.
In order to gain a rough cost benefit analysis of a number of security features intended to address the three levels of security previously identified (overt, covert, forensic) the illustration (Figure 10.5) provides a useful indication of the level of security that can be achieved for a given cost.
On the left axis the investment in security features climbs upwards from low through to high, and on the bottom axis the level of security provided by each alternative security technology increases from low to high the more you move to right.
By combining two or more security features together the level of security obtained can be cost-effectively increased.
From this very basic model it should be possible to gain an idea of the relationship between various popular security devices and their respective cost and security level.
The savviest operators in this field will not be looking for the cheapest solution, but will be striving for the best solution.
For instance the best solution may well be a security label that combines the attributes of tamper evidence with authentication.
Figure 10.6 - Shows combined tamper evidence and authentication in a combined label
This could be extended further by introducing an EAS circuit within the label to provide anti-theft protection too.
The incremental costs associated with each technology when applied to a single label, far outperforms the alternative which would require three separate labels. Not only would a saving be made in pressure-sensitive material but also a set off in manufacturing costs and the additional expense of affixing three labels to a pack rather than one.
Alternative solutions use labeling in conjunction with instruction on how to ensure that customers are purchasing authentic product in shops or online.
Murano Glass is a product that attracts knock offs, especially those purchased online, and since the process is unique to manufacturers in Murano, Venice and nowhere else. Pieces are individual and depending upon the design can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars.
By just searching for ‘Murano Glass’ on e-Bay it will be appreciated just how many fake products are being listed that claim this pedigree. Sadly the vast majority are cheap imports from China being sold by people who make more money out of postage and packing than they do from the glass products themselves.
By this point it will be apparent that anti-counterfeiting and other security devices that are designed to provide tamper evidence, or as a protection or warning of other threats such as identifying illicit movement or theft, are not in themselves a comprehensive solution to the problem of suppressing product related crime.
Figure 10.7 - Trademark protection and authentication via a label can be backed up by an informative website
Figure 10.8 - The process of successful product security rests with informing all the stakeholders in the chain and educating each of them on the importance
Since packaging and labeling products are designed to ‘Inform, Contain & Protect’ goods they are the most useful and visible platform on which to set security monitoring devices. They are also ideal carriers of information that can convey supply chain detail such as track & trace data.
Such print related security can only function effectively as part of a carefully formulated strategy that involves systematically addressing every risk and providing the necessary information needed to every stakeholder in the process.
This will include retailers, distributors, customs/border protection, inspection teams and the final customer as well as the brand owner.
Since the Brand Owner is the primary driver of this process, it follows that the responsibility for introducing, controlling and informing all the stakeholders in the process lies with them.
Over the past quarter century, the solutions to securing and authenticating labels and packaging have evolved considerably and will need to advance continually in order to keep pace with the constant threats posed by the attractiveness of the financial incentives available to those who wish to exploit the opportunities offered through copying and tampering with branded goods.
Paradoxically, the greatest threat to branded products through counterfeiting and diversion lies in the widespread availability of fake goods on the internet. However, well-constructed and informative websites together with monitoring software are seen as useful tools with which to fight this criminality.
Similarly, inconsistency exists in the high number of solutions that are available to brand owners that recognise the need to tackle the problem.
Some point to the fact that a form of standardization should exist, because a much smaller number of security devices would enable the development of recognizable ‘standard’ authentication systems available to everybody, rather than the requirement today that calls for an ever-widening range of verification tools and knowledge about how to use them.
Whilst this view is understandable, some would point out that the very strength of an effective authentication system lies in the difficulty in replicating it successfully and that standardization would offer fewer targets to compromise and thereby make life easier for those people determined to confront the system.
There is no simple answer to this problem, only that security resides in the exclusivity of the security devices chosen, whether this exclusivity resides in the process of manufacture of each device, or in the rareness or covertness of the materials involved in their fabrication.
What is certain though, is there will continue to be a requirement for well-designed and cost effective print related security systems and devices as long as the threats of product compromise continue to exist.