Because they fit easily into most existing production processes, security inks are among the most popular brand protection techniques available. But what are the latest innovations to keep counterfeiters guessing, and why do traditional ink suppliers want a piece of the market?

The ink pot


.. Specialist security ink suppliers Calyx Calyx in the US supplies overt and covert inks for protecting brands. inks are one of the oldest and most widely used anti-counterfeiting techniques. ’ Volume 3 Issue 1 brand© . They are easy to apply and comparatively cheap to buy .. A cheap solution Within the security device and brand protection industry. The inks are combined to provide multi-layered anti-counterfeiting solutions to pharmaceutical companies. ink.43 hen Flint Ink and Sun Chemical decide to reach beyond their traditional established printing ink businesses and enter the small but highly specialised world of security inks. For example. not just makers of security inks. polymer or adhesive and use the unique and hard to replicate characteristics of DNA to tell real products from counterfeits. interest in them has really grown in the last couple of years and so has the number of companies supplying DNA taggants. Scientists at the newly united business venture are creating a hybrid ink that incorporates Isotag’s forensic technology into The benefit of versatility As well as acting as overt brand protection measures.. brand owners are a reticent bunch when it comes to accepting the counterfeiting issue and doing something about it. In July 2003 Isotag – a brand protection company in Dallas that has developed a unique molecular marker technology that can be tracked online – announced it had acquired Calyx. W Tagging is a covert technology that can be used to underpin any brand protection strategy. Calyx’s main client base. These can usually then in turn be printed onto packaging in existing production processes. security inks are one of the oldest and most widely used anticounterfeiting techniques. inks also provide a good base that hidden or covert security technologies such as DNA markers and taggants can be integrated into. ‘ . They are easy to apply and comparatively cheap to buy. such as paint. from optically variable pigments to infrared up-converting and fluorescing inks. Although DNA taggants have been around for a while. laminates and labels. as well as paper. But care must be taken to ensure their ease of use does not mean that they are easy for a counterfeiter to copy or appropriate. Particle tag systems can be included in ink. The main practice is to mix or attach specially processed DNA to specific media. These inks are easy to detect but can be bought from numerous ink suppliers. UV inks will assist in defeating efforts to copy packaging or documentation by scanning. you find yourself asking ‘why’? After all. Another type of technology known as infrared (IR) up-converting taggants uses a small amount of up-conversion inorganic phosphors that can be added to most inks and materials. Fluorescent inks on their own offer little security in the face of determined counterfeiters but can form part of a package of brand protection and security features.

Depending on the type of covert technology used.2 billion) annually. In these instances item-level brand protection is desirable. The information gathered from the ability to track and trace a product could prove invaluable for drugs companies because they can isolate where copies of their products are entering the supply chain and where diversion is taking place. coatings and paint manufacturers and are used on many products.9 10. Isotag scientist Dave Wallace is confident the new ink with the molecular markers will be virtually impossible to copy.’ says Wallace. in the US especially. gravure and offset printers.4 8. % Region Western Europe Eastern Europe Asia Africa North America South America Total worldwide growth Source: Pira International Ltd 2002–03 7. This colour variation cannot be replicated via any scanner nor by any printing technique other than by the use of optically variable inks or pigments but they provide instant visual authentication. which can increase depending on the complexity of the solution.5 11. or close enough to that level.1 6. ‘By adding covert feature after covert feature to the ink you are making it very hard for counterfeiters to replicate. a lot of medication is produced. 2002–05. Flex Products Flex Products in California makes optically variable pigments that are added to paints. They do not provide immediate yes or no authentication. Calyx’s existing range of security inks add a few extra cents to the cost of production per pack.1 2002–05 10. Isotag has a partnership with Flex Products.6 11. readers in the brand protection industry in general can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. inks and coatings. But. Why does Wallace think security inks are so appealing? ‘Inks can be used in almost any existing manufacturing process. Its UV-curable pigments can be applied by rotary screen.4 11.6 15. If the pack of medication leads directly to the consumer then a brand protection device applied to the package is fine says Wallace. packed and distributed in bulk to pharmacists.9 9. Isotag’s ultimate goal is to deliver an ink or dye that can be printed onto the product or suspended in a liquid.4 company’s optically variable pigments are compatible with flexographic. from mobile phones to cars. As well as offering overt and covert authentication features the new ink will allow a item to be traced along the supply chain. Here’s the background to the case and their solution: The prescription drug business for this pharmaceutical manufacturer exceeds $17 billion (€14. The pigments are sold to authorised ink. The inks can also be incorporated into tamper-evident labels and the covert dyes can be mixed into existing colours used by Isotag and Calyx’s clients.3 7. which is only in the early stages of research and development for such a solution.’ The Table 1 Forecast growth of security ink market. but have to be forensically tested in Isotag’s laboratory.’ But Wallace concedes that for brand protection technologies to work best they must be applied at item level. The new ink containing Isotag’s technology should not add to the cost because the amount of molecular marker solution used is tiny.2 9. The two companies are working with a global pharmaceutical company to stop the counterfeiting of one of its drugs products. ‘They or their printer don’t have to redesign their packs in order to include our technology.44 Calyx’s dyes. The company’s top selling drug generates more than $3 billion every year and each of the other 23 drugs it produces rake in more than $100 million each. However like other DNA techniques they are totally invisible to the naked eye and cannot even be picked up by a reader in the field. brand© Volume 3 Issue 1 .6 8. However this is still years off for the company.9 10. Around $10 billion of those revenues are made in the US alone. Objects coated or painted with these pigments change colour according to the angle from which they are viewed.

Isotag’s and Flex Products’ solution is now being applied to other high-value drugs within pharmaceutical company’s portfolio. The ink can only be read with a special reader developed by Bsecure. FDA guidelines threatened to recall the drug. For an overt security layer Flex Products provided its colour-shifting pigment to be used with inks printed on the packaging. Bsecure Israeli brand protection company Bsecure has developed a new ink and system for authenticating and tracking branded goods. The drugs in the pipeline were then released for sale and a product recall was avoided. time and date at which they verified a product’s authenticity Table 2 Profile of latest security inks available Inks types Optically variable inks Overt or covert Overt Current features Colour changes when viewed at different angles Colour changes above a set temperature Absorb IR energy but not visible to eye Trace additions of invisible tags. only back at Isotag’s laboratories. No litho ink yet Limited in some climates Requires detection equipment Wider range of taggants introduced More costly than is often acceptable Development work has yet to be completed Limited choice of suppliers More dedicated ink/detector combinations Greater conductivity UV litho & flexo Future developments Improved printability. The SecuVision technology consists of invisible ink that gives a product. or its label and packaging. throughout the distribution pipeline unless consumers could in future tell it apart from fakes. Litho grades introduced Thermochromic inks Overt/covert Infrared up-converting inks Covert Tagged inks Covert Machine-readable inks Covert Cannot be detected by graphic scanners Undetectable without correct equipment Permit automatic identification Conductive inks Covert Intaglio inks Overt Potentially allow less costly circuits to be produced Few producers of intaglio print improves security Photochromic inks Overt/covert Source: Pira International Ltd Volume 3 Issue 1 brand© .45 Counterfeit versions of the company’s best selling drug were discovered in the US. The company had to repackage its drug with layered security or face loss of revenue and potential negative effects on consumers due to shortage of the product. The manufacturer did not have a product security system in place and needed an FDAapproved solution immediately. The whole brand protection package took the FDA less than four weeks to approve. valued at over $1 billion. The dye itself costs a fraction of a cent to apply to each item. Authorised operators can enter onto the database the exact location. Brand owners can store each unique ID created by the ink onto a database to track items in the supply chain. Very versatile Contain components that are only detectable by equipment Allow electrically conductive tracks to be printed Produce very thick films that can be felt Change colour in UV or strong sunlight Key drivers Readily seen by public Inhibiting factors Can be very expensive. These could be read in the field to authenticate packages. a unique identity. The drugs company was also concerned that any potential damage to its top seller would put all its other brands at risk. Machine-readable inks were also printed on the packaging as a covert measure. The markers can’t be verified in the field. Isotag’s proprietary molecular marker technology was also applied to the packs as a third covert measure.

counterfeited or stolen. ‘Our pigments will put off the opportunist. cosmetics. Flint Ink.’ says Marshall. The company hopes to release more details about these negotiations in the near future. There is a company in mind it would like to work with but Marshall is reluctant to reveal details until they have actually approached it.0 2002–2005 10. And it makes sense. artists colours and printing inks. According to Bsecure’s chief executive officer Ron Peer. However. An integral feature of some of Holliday’s pigments is that they cannot be copied.2 11.46 Table 3 Security inks: progression of the market for brand protection in pharmaceuticals. so when mixed into ink and printed they give a low level of visible brand protection. A label or substrate printed with the special ink looks normal. Dainippon and BASF.’ Mainstream providers of ink Traditional ink and pigment suppliers like Flint Ink. is because they fit into existing printing processes. Of course the pigment could get into the hands of counterfeiters but Holliday’s ink technologist Aaron Marshall says. the company will only discuss its products with the major manufacturers of both traditional and security inks such as Sicpa. the man on the street. as a precaution. These traditional printing inks companies have distribution channels in place and long established relationships with clients in the printing. He agrees with Wallace at Isotag that the reason why inks are such a widely used security measure. Holliday Pigments Holliday Pigments in the UK is the world’s largest producer of ultramarine blue and brand© Volume 3 Issue 1 . The general printing ink market is highly competitive and has a surplus of production capacity.0 Overall market Security inks Source: Pira International Ltd so that they can isolate where the product is being diverted. Marshall and his colleagues have already discussed the possibility of combining their unique pigments with covert technologies to produce inks that can fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet light. rubber. In the past 18 months they have bought into security ink businesses. integrating the ink into a product logo would produce the best results because counterfeiters would literally have to remove the logo in order to get rid of the ink. Sun Chemical and Holliday have all cottoned on to the appeal of security inks. compared with other devices. There are potentially greater profit margins in the security ink sector because it adds more value and is less commoditised. manganese violet pigments. paints. or are setting up alliances with providers of brand protection techniques or have launched their own security products. When it is viewed through the reader a pattern becomes visible that can be used to verify the product. Bsecure is in talks with multinationals in the pharmaceutical.6 10. converting and publishing industries. Holliday will wait and see how much interest the market will show in this idea. The company is marketing this aspect of the pigments to two groups in the supply chain: ink suppliers and packaging designers. used in inks across substrates and products. including plastics. 2002–2005 (%) 2002–2003 8. The result is that prices are kept very low by the competitive pricing of ink makers and general profitability is lower than most other industries would accept. ‘Inks can give a pretty good idea almost straight away as to whether a product is genuine or not and they can be combined with other technologies to provide a covert level of detection and a history of where the product has travelled along the supply chain. tobacco and cosmetics industries that are interested in using the technology. A kilogram of the pigment costs around $14.

but the company wants to provide the whole service. Volume 3 Issue 1 brand© . thinks converting has become so competitive that packaging companies will print or integrate security devices on or in packaging as part of a onestop-shop service to brand owners. taggants and other ingenious ways to authenticate and track goods. the world’s largest ink supplier. James Assaf. Brand owners and their packaging converters aren’t up to speed with the numerous technology start-ups offering DNA markers. Polazzo says the company will also target other markets including cosmetics. InkSure’s chief executive officer of US operations. not just an exhaustive list of security inks and devices. Sun Chemical wants to use its extensive client base as leverage for the security inks developed by InkSure. which will include security inks. The ink supplier’s strategy is to build up a battery of security and brand protection techniques through license agreements with security specialists and acquisitions. in-register onto flexible packaging. wines and pharmaceuticals. 2002–2005 (%) Source: Pira International Tamper-evident seals Digital watermarks Security graphics In-product marking Magnetic technologies EAS Bar codes Taggants Security films Security threads Security papers Security inks Holograms RFID tags Security labels Security packaging overall 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Speed up a lot Speed up a little No change Sun Chemical In June this year Sun Chemical. a specialist in encoded inks that can only be read by specially developed machines. If such a company licenses their technology or distributes it through an ink or coating supplied by a Sun Chemical or a Flint Ink they have a better chance of it reaching end-users. Alcan has started with holograms. Other security inks. transparent holograms for applications such as CD packaging. The converter is licensing a machine that can apply. announced a marketing alliance with InkSure. Sun Chemical is now in talks with a tobacco company that owns one of the largest cigarette brands in the US and its packaging converter about testing covert inks in the SunSure range on cigarette packs. Sun Chemical’s security and brand protection director Pat Polazzo predicts that in the coming years there will be consolidation between the traditional ink suppliers and boutiques and specialists offering security and brand protection technologies.47 Figure 1 Pharmaceutical industry views on the adoption rates of security products by type. though it is still early days for the company to give away any names yet. spirits. coatings and brand protection technology suppliers are also in Sun Chemical’s radar. Alcan intends to grow its range of secure packaging. Flint Ink’s plan is pretty much the same.

The biggest growth areas in the security inks market will be in optically variable inks. minimum cost was cited as the most important factor behind the choice of a particular brand protection device. It’s a two-way thing. three. Overt protection also serves to put off have-a-go counterfeiters from copying the product. can be added to ■ In the US. Overt security. two. so all the converter is paying for is the ink and readers. or a free trial. brand name and brand protection measure reinforce each other. teamed up to supply a combined package of overt and covert security.co.uk brand© Volume 3 Issue 1 . easy to apply and comparatively cheap to buy ■ Ink. both equally important levels of security to have on packaging or products for different reasons. even four types of covert technology a brand owner will completely scupper any chances of its product being copied. over the coming years ■ TAKE AWAY ■ Security inks are one of the oldest and most widely used anti-counterfeiting techniques. also provides a good base that hidden or covert security technologies. You or I will buy Microsoft software because we know it’s the genuine article. Many of these covert technologies such as Isotag’s molecular markers. The packaging printing and converting industry. as well as serving as an overt brand protection measure. For subscription information. such as Sun Chemical. tagged inks and machine-readable inks. infrared up-converting inks.48 What’s so good about inks? Technology suppliers have to convince brand owners that their products are value for money. thermochromic inks. Although security inks and also papers are more expensive than their standard counterparts. This was to help a leading drugs company save its best-selling brand which was under attack from counterfeiters ■ Bsecure in Israel recently launched a new invisible ink that marks each product with a unique identity that can only be detected with a special reader ■ The world’s biggest suppliers of traditional inks. This in turn is good for the brand owner. the MagDot technology sold by Light Impressions in the UK and Bsecure’s invisible coding technology are incorporated into inks. a supplier of overt and covert security inks. not say an entire new machine or piece of equipment for applying another security device. so by incorporating one. watermarks and holograms offer consumers the opportunity to decide for themselves whether a product is genuine. they are not generally regarded as unacceptably high in cost. Most of them can be applied on existing printing processes. has been bought by Isotag. the company behind a unique molecular marker technology. becomes more competitive ■ The security ink industry will continue to consolidate as the big traditional ink players acquire or absorb technology suppliers into their operations ■ Security inks will remain a popular choice of brand protection because they are relatively cheap to apply. such as taggants. perhaps being eclipsed in the coming years by radio frequency identification (RFID) devices as their cost comes down. Security inks will continue to remain one of the biggest brand protection techniques. therefore. Security inks can be overt and covert. are getting into security inks partly because these specialised products offer better profit margins. such as colour-changing inks. They will become extremely popular in Asia-Pacific. please contact: publications@pira. compared with other security measures and are very versatile ■ By incorporating a number of different types of covert technology a brand owner will completely deny any possibility of its product being counterfeited ■ Much of the growth in the security ink market will happen in Asia-Pacific over the next few years. Calyx. The new company is developing new ink solutions that combine Calyx’s and Isotag’s technologies ■ Isotag and Flex Products. Sara Ver-Bruggen Sara Ver-Bruggen is the editor of ActiveIntelligent News. It enhances the brand and adds value to it. a supplier of optically variable pigments. In Pira’s research. But the more serious counterfeiters will try and copy the overt device. Pira’s fortnightly newsletter.

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