Creo, a Canadian firm which makes imaging and printing technologies, has teamed up with label company Accucote to develop invisibly-tagged, traceable label stocks for the pharmaceutical, medical and other industries, writes Phil Taylor.
The self-adhesive label stocks will combine Creo's proprietary Traceless taggants into Acucote label materials, which will then be sold to label converters.
The Traceless taggants cannot be detected visually or chemically, so this means they can be used to create forensically-invisible identification codes for anti-counterfeiting, inventory management, product tracking and tracing, and brand authentication purposes. They are detected using a simple handheld reader, and also allow a unique identification code for each item, answering the need for mass serialisation of products such as drugs.
The agreement between Creo and Acucote, will allow the production of official product brand authentication labels "that will allow genuine brand owners to regain control of their brands and stop brand-equity erosion resulting from counterfeiting," according to Lynn Crutchfield, Acucote's executive vice president.
Consumer market analysts estimate that worldwide product counterfeiting costs brand companies over $450 billion annually and it is a particular problem for the pharmaceutical industry because its product tends to be high-value and easily transportable.
Earlier this year, a study suggested that up to 15 per cent of all drugs sold worldwide - worth of $35 billion (€25bn) - are fakes.
Creo notes that large European and North American companies often produce their brand-name products off-shore; however, the same contract manufacturing location will sometimes copy or counterfeit the same product after hours, and even print label copies sourced locally in those countries.
The Canadian firm said the tagged Acucote label stocks will provide non-breachable product authentication when it is used to produce a specific number of authentic labels by trusted label suppliers in the country where the brand company resides.
When product authentication systems are introduced, counterfeiters try to reverse-engineer the systems to create something that appears authentic to the general public and even to brand investigators. But the strength of the Creo Traceless marking and sensing system is its forensic invisibility, present in concentrations of less than two parts per million
In addition, "Creo Traceless systems can even go further using the pure randomness of taggant particle positioning to designate each item uniquely, like a fingerprint per item," said Kevin Harrell, the firm's director of global business development for new security and authentication.
"Imagine having every pharmaceutical, cosmetic, garment and apparel product uniquely identified, with the database accessible exclusively to the brand goods company," he said.
The taggant image signature is machine-readable to verify the product on high-speed manufacturing lines up to 100 reads per second. The tiny amounts used in the tagging system also drives costs down
In addition to product label stock, Creo taggants can be added to paper pulp or woven fibers, printing inks, copier and printer toners, varnishes, sprays, powders, paints, glass, building materials, moulded or extruded plastics, molten metals, fuels, fertilizers and explosives, and other materials.
Creo, with sales of around $640m last year, is due to be acquired by Eastman Kodak this summer.