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Continued need for brand protection during economic downturn

International Authentication Association (IAA) : 04 June, 2009  (Technical Article)
The International Authentication Association reports on the need for businesses to remain focussed on protection of brands
According to a recent survey carried out by intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk, as many as 80 per cent of managers are 'too busy' to spend more time on brand protection or only get involved once a counterfeiting or competitive threat has emerged. Just a fifth are spending more time on brand protection.

Against this backdrop, the International Authentication Association (IAA), a global organisation set up to lead the fight against counterfeits, has stressed the need for brand and product owners to have a comprehensive and constant anti-counterfeiting strategy in place. It warns against a reduction in time and investment on brand protection.

The results come at a time when the need for brand and product protection has never been greater with the threat of counterfeiting and piracy spiralling. The latest report by the Organisation of Economic Development (OECD) estimates that the global counterfeiting market has topped $200 billion, while the

Counterfeiting and Intelligence Bureau (CIB) predicts fake goods will make up to 7 per cent of world trade.
Chair of the IAA, David Howard, explains: "There's no doubt that budgets are under threat in the current climate but not protecting your brand correctly is not an option.

"Counterfeiters need little excuse at the best of times and economic hardship is likely to be a recipe for increased criminality. If companies are cutting back on their counterfeiting efforts, the market will be more attractive for fakes."

While companies will inevitably be taking a hard look at their costs, combating counterfeits is proven to be an effective way to maintain turnover and market share.

Howard added: "The costs of protecting your products are low compared to the problems and financial headaches that counterfeiting and infringement will bring a business further down the line. Authentication technologies should be a key component of this."

The IAA comprises 20 of the world's leading brand owners and suppliers of authentication technologies. Among its prominent voices are flagship brands Johnson & Johnson, Honeywell, 3M Brand and Asset Protection, Authentix, Dupont Authentication and Hologram Industries to name a few.

The organisation's raison d'etre is to promote the use of authentication technologies as an integral part of an effective anti-counterfeiting strategy, protecting products, documents and their users from counterfeiting and fraud. Education is a key element of this agenda, with the IAA playing a prominent role in educating government agencies, inter-government organisations and brand owners about the roles and uses of authentication.

Howard, who is also director of product protection at Johnson & Johnson, explains: "While counterfeiting and piracy are age old problems, the globalisation of world trade has seen an exponential increase in the scale and effects in recent years. Increased trade, new technologies and 'grey' markets, particularly the internet, have intensified already acute problems.

"The scale of the threat, and the damage that can be caused, means there's a compelling need for today's brand owners to protect their products. Governments too need to ensure the validity of key documents including currency, passports and identity cards.

"The International Authentication Association is an important voice for the authentication community. It will promote and explain the uses of authentication in a climate when the potential to benefit from these technologies has never been greater."

Today, technology provided by members of the International Authentication Association protects global products valued in the hundreds of billions. This includes the majority of the world's currency, numerous passports, ID cards and other vital documents as well as everyday items such as jewellery, mobile phones, computers and clothing - although we often don't know it.

The threat of counterfeiting is felt across all industries worldwide. All consumer goods, from high-end, luxury goods to everyday items such as clothing and cigarettes, are targets with counterfeiters turning their attention to anything that generates a profit. So too are products as diverse as automotive parts, pharmaceuticals, software and music. The costs, both economic and social, are significant. The revenue, profitability and reputation of businesses can be irreparably damaged, while crime, injury and, in the worst cases death, are social impacts.

To combat this threat, brand owners use an array of authentication technologies to protect their products as part of anti-counterfeiting strategies. This includes overt devices visible to the naked eye such as a hologram or colour changing ink. Hidden devices - ultraviolet inks or scrambled images - are also used. These are often revealed to the human eye through handheld inspection devices to increase the level of security.

More sophisticated covert devices such as chemical tags in packaging or electronic and embedded codes are also popular, while some forensic devices requiring laboratory analysis are used. A combination of these components is often incorporated into a single device for greater effect.
David said: "Authentication technologies are on the front line of the war against counterfeiting every day. Research clearly shows that they can make real impact as part of an anti-counterfeiting strategy.

"There are a multitude of technologies that can help examiners quickly and easily identify and protect products in ways that are not obvious to counterfeiters. Unfortunately the role that they play and the impact that they have is not fully appreciated.

"One of the key aims of the IAA will be to change this and build a better appreciation of the value of authentication in an anti-counterfeiting and brand protection strategy."

With this goal in mind, the IAA is in the process of developing a new Authentication Framework that will help to develop a common understanding of authentication, its value and, most significantly, assist brand owners in making the case for authenticating and how they should go about it. It is expected to be completed later in 2009.

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