Counterfeiting is a multi-billion-dollar market that affects companies across a wide range of industries. From designer purses and watches to food and wine, anyone’s business can be affected.
While revenue is a big component of the problem, jobs, reputations, and even lives can hang in the balance because of counterfeit goods. This has led governments, organizations, and manufacturers to act, looking for new and creative ways to distinguish legitimate products from their counterfeit counterparts.
Often, this includes the way products and packaging are labeled and marketed. Many of these labeling and marking innovations have come about because of laser technology, specifically by way of laser marking systems.
Anti-counterfeiting Laser Solutions
Lasers are unique in that they can be utilized for a variety of industries in many ways, but in terms of anti-counterfeiting actions the most popular way is through the laser marking, engraving or etching of products.
These processes can be performed on anything from car parts to medical devices, and may even be required by law, depending on the marking and the industry. It’s important for manufacturers to know and understand product and packaging requirements, but compliance isn’t the only benefit to laser marking. A few examples:
- Gillardeau, a world-famous French oyster farm, uses laser marking and engraving systems to engrave its oysters’ shells in order to derail attempts to counterfeit its shellfish. The company chose laser engraving because it didn’t harm the oysters and was also resistant to sea water, so the marks wouldn’t rub off as the shellfish were submerged.
- Other companies throughout the food and beverage industry have since started utilizing laser marking machines for their own purposes, including to reduce their environmental footprint and packaging waste.
- There have also been cases in which wineries and distilleries have used laser etching to mark the brand’s name, age, and cask, along with a unique serial number to ensure legitimacy to consumers.
- In other instances, lasers have been used to mark the packaging of pharmaceuticals to combat the counterfeit drug market.
One of the benefits of laser marking and engraving products is the versatility of the laser systems. These systems can be used on a multitude of surfaces, which enables manufacturers to create labels or marks on anything from wine bottles to electronics.
With laser marking systems’ versatility, manufacturers who invest in the systems gain an anti-counterfeiting solution that will benefit their products in a variety of ways.
The Rise of Counterfeiting
Counterfeiting is the manufacturing and distribution of someone else’s trademarked, patented, or copyrighted products or goods without their permission. These counterfeit goods are often made with lesser quality materials, but are sold under the brand holder’s name.
Although the buying and selling of these products are illegal on a state, national and international level, the practice continues to grow from year to year.
In fact, a report commissioned by the International Trademark Association (INTA) and the International Chamber of Commerce said that counterfeiting and piracy could reach a global economic value of $2.3 trillion by 2022.
Another study conducted by Frontier Economics found that the estimated global value of counterfeit goods and services in 2013 was around $923 billion to $1.13 trillion, almost as much as the size of Spain’s economy in 2015.
The Impact of Counterfeiting
While it’s clear that counterfeiting can have a huge influence on the economy, as well as a business’s revenue, it can also affect so much more.
- A 2008 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the scope of products being counterfeited had broadened greatly.
- The report stated that the types of products being counterfeited and pirated has shifted from high-end goods, such as designer clothing, upscale watches and expensive perfumes, to more common products. This evolution of counterfeit and pirated goods has continued throughout the years.
With the introduction of more common goods into the counterfeit trade, we’ve also seen a shift in the impact of these counterfeit and pirated products. As with the high-end goods, common goods are also affected in terms of profit and revenue, which can in turn cause potential employment reduction.
Another factor you need to consider with counterfeit goods is the affect they can have on your brand image. These counterfeiters use your images and name to sell their lesser quality products, deceiving consumers into thinking they are purchasing your products.
This not only takes business from your personal brand, but it can also the affect the way that consumers view your brand as well, leading them to attribute the lower quality products and materials to your company.
With the potential for lower quality products, an additional risk for consumers of counterfeit goods is health and safety concerns, especially within the food, beverage, and medical industries.
- An estimated 120,000 people die in Africa each year as a result of fake anti-malaria drugs alone, according to the World Health Organization.
- Also, there was a case in 2008 in which 900 infants were hospitalized with kidney problems, six of whom died, due to milk tainted with melamine—a chemical that makes the milk appear to have a higher protein content.
Situations like these are what have led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other organizations to implement new and tougher requirements when it comes to product identification and packaging.
Legislation and Requirements
Around the world, governments have implemented anti-counterfeiting legislation, creating harsher penalties for counterfeiters, processes for the disposal of counterfeit goods, and requirements for manufacturers to help businesses and consumers protect themselves.
In the United States, federal anti-counterfeiting legislation dates to the late 1800s with the “Act to Revise, Consolidate and Amend the Statutes Relating to Patents and Copyrights” of 1870. Prior to this legislation, it was up to the individual states to regulate trademarks, and trademark holders had to rely on common law causes of action to protect their marks and to recover damages.
This legislation was the first federal trademark law and was based on the Patent and Copyright clauses of the Constitution, but was struck down and revised by Congress and the Supreme Court numerous times.
- The Lanham Act, passed by Congress in 1946, is the primary U.S. statute relating to trademarks, prohibiting false designations, advertising, and descriptions, as well as the selling goods under the name of another person or business.
- This act became the basis of much of the United States’ anti-copyright legislation, leading to the more recent Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act of 2008.
- The latter act created harsher penalties, a new advisory committee, as well as a grant program to train and support law enforcement at each level. The PRO-IP Act also established the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) to coordinate efforts across federal agencies to protect intellectual property.
In addition to the legislation, government agencies and organizations have also implemented laws and requirements for manufacturers and businesses which are designed to help protect them against counterfeiters.
One of the most significant requirements federal and international agencies have implemented is to require unique markings on products.
Each country and industry has its own set of marking and labeling requirements that manufacturers need to understand in order to comply. For example:
- Goods imported to the United States are required to have a country of origin marking (e.g., if a product is made in China, it must have “Made in China” on both the product and packaging).
- Similarly, businesses within the European Union or those wishing to import products into a country in the EU, must include a CE marking which indicates whether the product meets essential requirements regarding safety, health, environmental concerns, and energy efficiency.
Requirements like these vary from country to country, so it’s vital for manufacturers to understand them, but businesses also need to make sure they understand the requirements of their specific industry because those can vary as well.
- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Commission, for example, now require a unique device identifier (UDI) for all medical devices.
- This not only helps address the counterfeiting of these devices on a global level, but also makes it easier for medical professionals and industry decision makers identify and analyze the devices for a wide range of purposes.
- Also, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires tracking labels on all children’s products, not only for chain of commerce, but also to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness in the event of a recall.
These are just a few examples, however. Each industry is different in their requirements and needs, but one thing all industries have in common is that the markings or labels need to be clear and readable.
That is where TYKMA Electrox’s laser marking systems can help.
The Best Laser Marking Systems on the Market
At TYKMA Electrox, we offer the most advanced fiber laser marking machines in the world. Our systems utilize MOPA technology, which allows for better performance and makes our machines more cost-effective.
This technology also allows for better pulse control, which can affect contrast, density and finish, depending on the application.
Our fiber laser marking systems feature advanced capabilities for even the most difficult marking applications, and a maintenance-free design.
We strive to ensure our customers have the technology and tools needed to complete their application. Whether it’s complying with industry regulations or adding a logo to protect your brand, you can trust that a TYKMA Electrox system will help you get the job done.
Have a question? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your anti-counterfeiting needs.