About 90 people attended the fourth annual Product Authentication & Brand Security Conference (PABS North America) held in Washington, DC in early October. The event, which was put on by AWA Alexander Watson Associates and the Brand Protection Alliance (BPA), covered counterfeiting and intellectual property theft and offered information about current technology designed to protect brands.
Attendees gathered in Washington, DC to hear about brand protection solutions during PABS 07.
The keynote speaker at the event was Elaine Marshall, secretary of state of North Carolina. She discussed the strides her state has made in the area of enforcement of intellectual property theft. She talked about the dedicated law enforcement unit North Carolina has for business crimes and how it has helped protect brand owners.
Mike O'Neil, chairman of the North American Security Products Organization (NASPO), pointed out the importance of securing business practices. He talked about why companies are implementing security measures, citing mandates, the threat of lost business, the potential for gained business, risk of material loss, risk of liability, the possibility for reduced costs, and competitive differentiation as reasons.
O'Neil stressed that securing business practices is a significant and ongoing project. With threats constantly changing, companies need to talk about security, update their manuals and communicate throughout the organization. As he put it, the rewards of a successful security program can be substantial, while the failure can be catastrophic.
Several presenters spoke about the role of technology in brand protection. James Hayward, CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, a company that provides customized DNA embedding and authentication solutions that are designed to help prevent and identify counterfeits, talked about forensic protection for brands and intellectual property. Hayward said DNA is an attractive brand protection tool because it provides absolute proof of authenticity.
It is also very difficult for counterfeiters to replicate DNA. Hayward gave an example of a label that contained 12 security features. DNA was the only security measure that wasn't defeated by counterfeiters.
DNA can be combined with other security features, according to Hayward. Applied DNA Science's SigNature DNA platforms integrate with RFID, holograms, optical strips, bar codes, specialty inks, and other pre-existing, non-forensic authentication technologies. He also told the audience that DNA marks aren't expensive and they are accurate, secure and versatile.
Tim Driscoll, VP of global operations at Authentix, a provider of brand protection solutions, discussed nanotechnology. He talked about five nano-scale authentication technologies in particular: structured nano-taggants, used on printed materials and adhesives; nano markings, used on nano bar codes and capsule embossing; quantum photonic markers, used on printed materials and substrates; molecular recognition markers, for ingestible products and printed materials; and mass differentiated markers, for fuels, liquids and explosives. All of these technologies are covert and mass differentiated markers are forensic. Driscoll said developments in nanotechnology, related to either taggants or devices, offer a sustainable competitive advantage.
Joseph Posusney, marketing manager for Gallus, a press manufacturer, spoke about the integration of brand protection technologies. He explained how Gallus and other members of the BPA were able to use a number of brand protection techniques on a sunblock product called Maui Chic. The label was produced on a Gallus EM 410 S servo drive press with nine printing stations. The goal was to produce all the security features in one pass and ensure that replication would be nearly impossible for all but a few top level converters.
The label was made with a substrate from Acucote, forensically-invisible markers from Kodak, tamper evident technology from Dunmore Corporation, an infrared varnish by Water Ink Technologies, an optically variable device called Trustseal from Kurz, variable data printing from EFI/Jetrion, and a unique security code per label from YottaMark.
Although using that large number of security devices would be rare, Posusney explained that the Maui Chic label was produced to show what could be done with the layering of technologies.
Elliott Grant, chief marketing officer for YottaMark, a company that provides authentication technology, introduced the idea of mass serialization. Grant said that with this type of security, a unique ID that is non-predictable and never repeats is placed at the unit level. Every verification is tracked, and he said it is resistant to false positives. Grant stressed the use of overt technology in helping to solve the problem of counterfeiting. With YottaMark's technology, consumers and end users can trace a product and find out if it is authentic.
Grant said making verification easy for the consumer is important. Consumers can trace YottaMark's products with a cell phone, sending a text message to authenticate the product, or a computer with internet access. Consumers type in a verification number and they are able to get information about the item.
Several converters also shared stories about brand protection. Lou Thurston, senior label business development manager at Corporate Express Document & Print Management, gave reasons why converters should become involved with brand protection. He said it gives them new products to sell, which expands business with existing customers and engages new customers; it helps converters differentiate themselves in the market; it allows them to sell solutions based on value rather than commodities based on price; and it allows them to be good corporate citizens.
Thurston cited a medium to low cost of entry into security for converters. He said there is no "magic bullet" and that layered solutions work best in protecting intellectual property. He admitted that this is a developing area of the marketplace still in its infancy. He said, "There's a small customer base right now, but it's growing."
Udday Thakkar, general manager for the Kavach Division of PRS Permacel, a converting company in India that provides overt, covert, forensic, and verification/tracking products, talked about how his company has provided anti-counterfeiting technology to brand owners. He admitted that brand protection has yet to become a priority for most brand owners there, but it is gaining ground.
In one case, Thakkar said, there were more counterfeits in the marketplace than genuine products for a power tools company. That company attempted to use techniques like holograms to combat the problem. After a holographic laminated carton that won a best packaging award was copied in less than three months, the company decided more action was required. Kavach used a multi-level security seal and divided its solution into two parts to make it difficult to copy. Thakkar said implementation began in September 2004 and the product has not been successfully copied since, other than a poor quality look-alike that appeared in September.
Neil Sellars, director of product development and marketing for National Label Company, stressed the layered approach to security. He said using a combination of overt, covert and forensic options is the best way to combat counterfeiting.
Matthew Goldhawk, brand protection consultant for IIMAK, a thermal transfer ribbon manufacturer, talked about secure bar codes as a method of track and trace. He explained that track and trace bar codes have variable information and are printed on-demand, usually on pressure sensitive labels. Various technologies can be embedded in the printed image with the ink as a vehicle. Taggants and invisible UV fluorescing ink are used by IIMAK.
Jan Svoboda, director of business development RFID for UPM Raflatac, a material supplier, spoke about RFID as a brand protection device. He acknowledged that RFID is not a silver bullet, but said closed loop applications are gaining momentum with volumes growing and costs declining. He also said standards are improving access to products and solutions.
According to Svoboda, major ROI is in the systems and solutions accompanied with RFID, which is an enabler for authentication. He cited two methods for item authentication: centralized (using a database, which requires an infrastructure and access) and localized (using cryptography, which is an off-line process with simple equipment).