Cracking down on counterfeiters is only possible with a deeper perspective on brand security that allows us to appreciate every facet of product protection.

Products and the brands they represent are collectives. Multiple components and processes create the product, bring it to market and build its brand value. A brand’s reputation is the result of consistent collaboration between the manufacturer, the product and its customer base.

In creating such a cooperative paradigm, many links in the anti-counterfeit chain must be examined and optimised so the whole chain performs its role in brand and product safety. I’ve had many talks in the past with all these links, namely brand protectors, logistical teams, production staff, legal eagles and marketers and while they each understood their roles well, a common understanding was lacking.

In today’s blog, I’ll be spotlighting some of these varied links, underscoring how they impact your product’s vulnerability to counterfeiting and illustrating how they each add a vital dimension to the wider anti-counterfeit picture.

Counterfeits and your intellectual property (IP)

Modern companies operate in a global economy that’s driven by ideas and that makes establishing IP the foundation of any anti-counterfeit strategy. After all, if your product doesn’t belong to you, then protecting it is impossible.

Here’s an important security quandary companies are immediately presented with. Should you file a patent on your product design to protect it from inception? There are advantages there, of course, but some feel patent filing may be counter-intuitive to anti-counterfeit efforts.

Their reason? Patents reveal your product/service is created or delivered. A published patent becomes available (and therefore vulnerable) to anyone searching for it. That ‘anyone’ may well be a competitor seeking to emulate your idea by altering it just enough to not violate IP rights. Worse, it could be a counterfeiter looking for the perfect way to make convincing, illegal copies.

A patent may be established if your company feels it’s best, but then you must protect the IP across other key areas, namely trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. Guidelines should also be set for other parties who have the right to use the brand, and clear contracts must be drafted with partners. With these measures established, companies develop an awareness of any misuse or violation of their IP and effective IP protection becomes legally possible.

The 3 tests counterfeiters fear

The next dimension in an anti-counterfeit strategy is to make bad actors pass three tests:

1. Market inspection
2. Product verification
3. Authentication

Market inspection standards vary between nations, but they generally identify product irregularities, enforce laws, press criminal charges and enforce IP rights. Inspectors can thus be important allies in your anti-counterfeit fight (if your IP is well established).

Product verification ensures that the design meets initial requirements. If it does, a company avoids design deficiencies. Just as importantly, this allows the company, its partners and enforcement officials can spot any variations in manufacturing. This is a classic way to catch a counterfeiter since there is often some variation on the true design that gives it away.

However, many fakes are so advanced that even a trained eye would miss them. This is why intentional authentication measures are so valuable. Physical and digital authentication from production to purchase is the goal, and it’s attainable in two steps, making protection an intrinsic part of your product’s DNA and deploying a smartphone app allowing instant authentication.

I recommend reviewing our two-tiered plastoTRACE™ suite, which blends next-level physical protection into your product at the production stage and for the product’s lifetime, and our scryptoTRACE® solution, which has a unique smartphone app. Both anti-counterfeit measures tie directly back to boosting the efficacy of market inspections, product verification and authentication to empower and protect your brand, its partners and its buyers.

Globally recognised graphics

Counterfeiting is essentially hijacking your company’s brand identity. To fight back, that identity must be uniformly enforced across the brand until the market knows it on sight. Visual brand consistency means counterfeiters can’t just slap anything on a product or its packaging. They must emulate your chosen scheme closely.

If your brand has implemented visual branding consistently and correctly, then you’ve effectively trained the consumer to become a low-level quality controller. They’ll know the right colour schemes, recognise the font and instinctively notice if a visual design feature is off. For many consumers, that eyes-on factor is all the quality checking they’re likely to do, so it must be made to count.

Remember that consistency is central to credibility

Brands who commit to a set style of visual and written design help make even the slightest deviation a noticeable red flag for every party involved in the product’s journey to retail. Yes, counterfeiters will likely still try to ape the original, but their margin for error becomes greatly reduced.

Connect with U-NICA for more information

Today’s focus is only a snapshot of the deep and ever-evolving world of the anti-counterfeit fight. More information about our U-NICA Protection Circle and its many benefits can help with more anti-counterfeit insight and another level of protection.