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Monday, 02 November 2015 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

If you have been on one of the European beaches this summer you may well have been offered some sunglasses, watches, ladies handbags or branded polo shirts by the bands of itinerant pedlars who flock to resorts in summer time hoping to earn a few euros.

I am sure if you have seen them you won’t have been taken in by a €20 Rolex or a €25 Hermes handbag, although of course after an afternoon of sunshine and perhaps a glass or two of wine, you might have been persuaded to part with your holiday cash. With a bit of luck the watch will keep going until the end of your vacation and the handbag won’t fall apart until you get home.

For big brands this sort of counterfeiting is a problem, but of course it is not just on the beaches of Europe where the problem exists. Major brands are spending large sums of money on anti-counterfeit measures in markets as diverse as luxury goods, banknotes and pharmaceuticals in an attempt to tackle what is estimated to be a €450 billion to €1.5 trillion loss of revenue.

Quite apart from the money, the World Health Organisation estimates that up to one million people a year die from using counterfeit medicines. Now a small start-up business in Cambridge in the UK has spun out from Cambridge University with a new material that can be applied to virtually any material on a production line. Developed over ten years by Dr Damian Gardiner, the new material is a form of crystal that contains several levels of authentication which are currently impossible to fake.

Dr Damian Gardiner in lab

Dr Damian Gardiner has developed a multi-layered authentication system

Inkjet-Based Ilumink to Illuminate Fake Brands

Gardiner has additionally developed a method of using conventional inkjet heads and software applied to existing production lines, so reducing the installation costs. He has named his spin out business “Ilumink” and has plans to bring it to market aided by an investment from the speciality chemicals business, Johnson Mathey.

It works by having as a first level a distinctive colour change when you tilt the product, but added to that there are several more layers of identification that can be read to identify a unique signature.

It will take time and investment by both brands and law enforcement agencies around the world to get the new technology in place to tackle the criminal gangs involved. Interpol warned last year that counterfeiters were latching onto the new labelling technologies to fake the provenance of their products, even going to the level of adding fake holograms in some cases.

It is too soon to say which of the brands will introduce Ilumink first but given the size of their problem many must be looking for any solution to the problem. It will be a while before I need a portable Ilumink reader on the beach in Spain, so for now I will rely on the fact that if the bargain watch or bag looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!

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