The damage caused by counterfeiting and piracy to both brand owners and national economies is growing. In 2019, the share of counterfeit products already amounted to 2.5% of total world trade (OECD and EUIPO). A total of 5.8% of imports in Germany alone came from counterfeiting, with organized crime expected to grow rapidly. In the worst case scenario, counterfeit products can cause damage the health, risks for the consumer or the brand owner is held liable as the alleged manufacturer.
Various methods are used to protect products against counterfeiting. Common methods are e. g. the application of a hologram or the so-called taggant. Substances, such as metals, are added to the product materials, which can then be detected during an authenticity check in the laboratory. Accordingly, these methods can only be applied to products with certain properties and are very time-consuming to implement. For this reason, an authenticity check is only carried out after suspicion of a forgery. When security features are applied to the product or to corresponding tags or labels, such as a hologram, the problem is that consumers or even the authorities usually do not know how the real product must be marked.
In order to provide comprehensive and above all preventive protection, serialization offers an optimal solution, if necessary in combination with other methods. During serialization, individual, uniquely identifiable and forgery-proof serial codes are generated and applied to the product or packaging, for example by laser engraving, inkjet or label. The serial code enables consumers or authorities to check the product for authenticity directly and without technological hurdles via the Internet in an end-to-end process. This is particularly convenient with a smartphone. This procedure offers the consumer or (customs) authorities its advantages through its simple and clear implementation. At the same time, the security code can be intelligently designed by assigning attributes and features to the codes via the system. This opens up many additional application possibilities for the manufacturer beyond pure authentication. The additional data and information can then be used for further analysis. The data for the analysis is created as a by-product of the authentication process without the usual considerable effort.
We have illustrated an example of what serialization can look like in the following short animated film.