The unrelenting search for top-quality products at the lowest possible price has opened the door for counterfeiters to infiltrate the supply chain and digital marketplaces with their fake goods, causing concern on a global scale. After a year in which e-commerce surged exponentially, the fight against counterfeit goods has escalated accordingly.

Counterfeit goods result in huge economic losses and affect a wide range of industries including food, pharmaceutical, technology, beauty, appliances and machines. Even more insidious is the counterfeiting of the cogs in the machinery, such as motor oil and other industrial lubricants that are increasingly sourced from Europe, Asia and Africa. Counterfeiting in this sector leads to tools and machines that fall short of performance requirements, causing serious injury or destruction of facilitates.

Counterfeiter tactics are evolving. In the heavy equipment sector some newer tactics include the use of hazardous base oils, improper formulas and/or additives or old/dirty oils that should be pulled from circulation. Lubricants are a critical component for the operation of heavy machinery, with common applications spanning manufacturing, refrigeration, automotive and HVAC. Counterfeit lubricants routinely cause more than material damage to factories and equipment, as they can destroy a brand reputation, disrupt the supply chain, or cause human fatality

How does this happen? The imitation component products easily enter the supply chain as counterfeiters print phony brand packaging or faking the labels required by industry regulators. Many major industrial companies outsource B2B and B2C labels. Using third-party printing companies to produce product and safety labels creates one more possible entry point for bad actors. Companies must ensure their printing vendor is protected from intellectual property asset leaks or theft.

The ability to authenticate and track-and-trace has never been more relevant. One way to protect products is using anti-counterfeit labels. The anti-counterfeit security label market is growing each day and it plays a critical role to ensure safe labels and packaging along the entire supply and custody chain. The need for duplicate-proof labels has given rise to a new standard of anti-counterfeit packaging and labels by manufacturers and technology companies. Labeling systems can play a key role in broader anti-counterfeiting efforts, ensuring health and safety regulations are met, as well as avoiding the risk of genuine product assets falling into the hands of counterfeiters. These capabilities are attractive to manufacturers of heavy machinery because of the inherent liability existing in industrial settings.

Using high-security labelling systems is the new normal for manufacturers who must aggressively secure the integrity and traceability of products. Security measures must be applied across all forms of print packaging and electronic labeling to uphold safeguards and ensure regulatory compliance.

Companies are using combinations of overt, covert and forensic features like holograms, tactile features and color shifting inks to protect their products. The overt are the noticeable details in a product label which make it easy to identify original products, while covert are the hidden details in labels to help detect fakes.

Recent security printing label innovations include watermarks: patterns or images that are embedded into a label to support brand identity and authenticate products; holograms: formed by the interference of light beams from intense light source to create a three-dimensional image; 2D barcodes: graphic rectangles or squares and contain several individual dots   ; and microtext; extremely small codes, symbols and text which are not easily identified using the naked eye and are very hard to replicate without the use of a special printing machine. They are inserted into larger text, overt images and other design elements.

One highly advanced company is even developing invisible taggant ink that features chemical markers.

With at least one EU researcher firm predicting the anti-counterfeiting packaging market will become a $206 billion market by the year 2026, international quality control officials may soon jump from AR glasses and VR headsets to x-ray vision glasses.

To learn more about how the team at Ference & Associates can help protect your protects from counterfeit ingredients in the supply chain, please reach out today to contact@ferencelaw.com or call us at 412.741.8400.

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Ference & Associates is a Pittsburgh, PA based law firm with a global client base. Our attorneys focus on patent, trademark, and copyright law.

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