Montserrat Peidro-Insa, HP Indigo Industrial & Photo Market Manager.
It's estimated that, worldwide, $600 billion worth of counterfeit goods are sold each year(1). This represents between 6 -10 percent of all global trade. The most frequently counterfeited products are pharmaceuticals where the total of fraudulent goods is estimated to be $498 billion, 83 percent of all fakes.
The second category with the most counterfeiting is, worryingly, automotive and aircraft parts. IT and software products, music and films, apparel, and cosmetics and toiletries follow, but virtually no sector is unaffected. Last year, $100 million worth of counterfeit HP inkjet cartridges were recovered by police and anti-counterfeiting operations around the world.
The prevalence of counterfeit goods varies widely. While overall levels tend to be lower in North America and in Western Europe, there are exceptions.
While the obvious lesson is to ensure that you buy from reputable sources with a supply chain that can be readily verified, counterfeiting presents HP Indigo press users with an unique opportunity to combat this crime while strengthening relationships with customers.
Issues of counterfeiting are of great interest to HP, both as a victim, and as the provider of solutions to the problem. In the label printing sector, HP Indigo presses offer a range of solutions to combat counterfeiting. They range from the relatively basic barcoding, numbering and personalisation, to more elaborate solutions using UV techniques, microtext, 2-D barcodes, colour coding, and smart packaging solutions.
One of the challenges is the variety of criteria anti-counterfeiting devices need to meet in order to be commercially acceptable. They should:
- Be cost-effective
- Not slow down production
- Be able to be changed quickly
- Enable different levels of security
Security devices can take many forms, but basically, they fall into two categories, overt and covert. The overt ones can be readily seen, though they may not be readily interpreted or read. They can be number codes, digital "watermarks," colour tiles (alphanumeric colour matrices), or information printed in special, hard-to-match colours.
Covert devices - those not normally visible - might include information only visible under certain conditions, for example, under UV light. Series 1 HP Indigo presses (like the HP Indigo press ws2000) can use "invisible" UV HP ElectroInk, while Series 2 press users (with HP Indigo press 4000 series presses) can take advantage of the fluorescent properties of substrates with "brighteners" and, use white HP ElectroInk to print invisible security information by masking the UV reflective substrate.
A basic principle of security printing is to use a combination of techniques, making fraud more difficult. Adding a variable data elements to coded invisible ink identifiers adds to the complexity of the coding, but means that it is still relatively easy to verify. Using variable data printing, PSPs can also add simple devices that appear at the top of product boxes. When these items are put in cartons (secondary packaging), the information added to the box top can be arranged to form a larger security code, with each item being a part of that code.
For example, a box of 24 items might have colours on them that are placed in the carton in a particular pattern; or, if there are numbers, they may be arranged to a special sequence. Such techniques make counterfeit goods (and goods that have been tampered with in transit) instantly recognisable.
Different security levels mean that customers can recognise products that are probably genuine via one feature, while the retailer (possibly with access to a code reader or UV light) would recognise other elements. A third set of features would only be known to and identifiable by distributors and a fourth layer might need a police or manufacturer's laboratory to verify.
The power of HP Indigo label printing offers a wide variety of ways of increasing product and brand security cost-effectively, which with some creativity and coordination will benefit customers, PSPs and end-users. And, remember, you're not just printing labels!
(1) HP, internal research. Other material is taken from a presentation by Henry Sang, Jr., of HP Labs, to the DSCOOP group of HP Indigo press owners.