For more background on the counterfeit crisis and the scope of packaging solutions available, go to www.packagingdigest.com/info/protect
Today, as brand marketers battle what has become a $250-billion-per-year drain on the global economy in the form of counterfeiting, piracy and diversion of intellectual property, paper makers have introduced increasingly more sophisticated technologies that allow paper to incorporate features that can be used for brand security and authentication.
"Paper and other materials are a key substrate in product packaging and labels," says Albert Sands, security consultant-Brand Protection for Appleton (www.appletonideas.com). "As the demand for high-level security solutions has grown, new intelligent technologies are being added into the substrates in the manufacturing process."
As brand owners confront greater and more costly challenges to brand protection, papermakers provide in-substrate solutions that incorporate more sophisticated authentication technologies for product packaging.
Many options available
According to Philip Swinden, head of Publications and Events for U.K.-based research group Pira Intl. (www.pira.co.uk), the types of brand protection/authentication technologies currently in use by paper manufacturers comprise six distinct solutions. These include established technologies such as mold watermarks, coating watermarks and security fibers; chemical sensitizing, which is more applicable to forgery than counterfeiting, but still an option; and more recent, ?intelligent? technologies, including security threads and security taggants.
Each solution, in turn, can be categorized as overt, covert, intelligent or forensic. Overt technologies, such as watermarks, are readily detectable by the human senses of sight, smell and/or touch. Covert features, as the name implies, are hidden within the substrate, but can be identified or activated by security personnel through the use of such tools as UV lights or black lights.
Intelligent solutions, including security threads, can provide unique product identity information that can be authenticated with specially designed readers. And perhaps the most cutting-edge category, forensic technology involves the use of genetic taggants that require forensic analysis to detect.
But no matter what technology today's security papers utilize, they all provide some key advantages for brand protection. Explains Sands, ?Security features that are a part of the substrate are difficult for counterfeiters to replicate due to the scope and scale of the substrate manufacturing process. The massive fourdrinier machines used to make paper represent investments in the millions, posing a virtually insurmountable barrier to entry for would-be counterfeiters.
In addition, the machines used to produce security substrates are typically located in extremely secure environments, and the paper products they produce are continually subject to documentation and scrutiny throughout the supply chain.
Security papers many times can also easily replace existing nonsecurity papers in an application, without the need for package design or production line changes.
Security threads offer encryption
Of the six categories of security paper technologies, security threads and security taggants represent the newest solutions. According to Swinden, the use of security threads for brand protection is expected to increase 12.5 percent annually over the next three years. ?Security threads can easily form part of the substrate or label, and they can be placed in various positions,? he explains. ?In addition, high-quality threads are difficult to counterfeit.?
These threads, which for a long time have been used in banknotes and other valuable documents, are typically comprised of polyester strips incorporated into the paper during manufacturing. Used as either an overt or a covert measure, security threads can be used in varying widths, with the larger threads being immediately identifiable within the substrate. They also cannot be removed from the substrate without destroying the paper.
"As the demand for High Level Security Solutions has grown, new intelligent technologies are being added into the substrates in the manufacturing process."
- Albert Sands, Appleton
Upping the ante, these threads can be encrypted with microprinted images or text, holographic images, UV fluorescence, thermochromic inks and more, or can be ?windowed? within the paper so that they rise to the surface at regular intervals. A proprietary new technology even allows variable data to be written to the thread after it has been inserted into the paper that, when linked to a database, can provide product tracking information, as well as authentication.
Special equipment, such as a handheld scanner, is required to authenticate and/or "decode" those threads that provide covert security through metallization, magnetic images, holograms or fluorescence.
Taggants point to authenticity
In contrast to security threads, which can be used overtly or covertly, security taggants comprise a decidedly covert set of brand protection/authentication techniques. The technology behind taggants, or microscopic tracer particles, was originally developed for manufacturers and distributors of explosives, explains literature from The Tag and Label Manufacturers' Institute (www.tlmi.com). "These "taggants" contained rare earth elements that helped law enforcement authorities determine the origin and/or chain of custody for explosive materials," it reads.
"Today's taggants are special, molecular-sized chemical markers that behave distinctly under certain electro-optic conditions. Invisible in ordinary light, these markers become readily visible under UV light. Able to be created in different colors and sizes, the taggants can also be dispersed into paper uniquely from batch-to-batch to create an identifying code that can be authenticated through the use of a reader."
Among the taggant formulations currently in use are particulate taggants, which consist of multilayer plastic particles that can provide many unique codes, and elemental taggants, which make use of the fundamental building blocks of chemistry and "thus cannot be altered," relates Swinden.
Even though today's technology-rich security paper solutions may seem virtually impossible to reproduce, papermakers urge brand owners to employ a multilayer security strategy for brand protection.
Other exciting developments for taggant technology include DNA tracers (see PD, Jan. '02, p. 4), antibodies and infrared up-converting. But, while these are valid brand security tools, they are presently only being used in ink and/or adhesive systems applied to the paper, rather than residing within the substrate.
Part of a layered approach.
Even though today's technology-rich security paper solutions may seem virtually impossible to reproduce, paper makers urge brand owners to employ a multilayer security strategy for brand protection. Says Sands, "Of the vast array of security features, there is no known 'silver bullet.' The criminal element has considerable expertise and resources to create pass-offs or duplicates of many security features. Therefore, most security solutions require the implementation of several security features in a layered approach." He adds that this approach may include covert and intelligent features in the substrate, coupled with print-on and applied features, such as security inks, optical variable devices and security graphics. But, rest assured, just as counterfeiters work to become more sophisticated in their ability to reproduce product packaging, paper makers will strive to stay one step ahead with newer, more advanced in-substrate solutions to deter them.