Tag Archives: Anti-counterfeit

Give bootleg sights a miss

Imagine that you are one of the world’s leading suppliers of optical rifle sights.  An irate customer is standing in front of you brandishing one of your most popular products.  He is so angry that he almost throws it in your face.  He has spent a lot of money buying this sight because he wanted the best and he has not got the best because he has bought a knock-off, outwardly indistinguishable from the real thing, perfect to the last detail but inside, the part that matters, it is a cheap substitute.

QUESTION: which is going to hurt you most?

  • Losing the original sale?
  • Refunding for a sale you never made?
  • The loss of your reputation?
  • Being hit over the head with a knock-off rifle scope?

Bootlegging is not a new problem and China has long been regarded as the “evil empire” of bootlegging.  In March 2006 a leading manufacturer of rifle and pistol optical sights – let’s call them “DeadShot” (no names, no pack drill) testified to the U.S. Senate about the problem of Chinese counterfeit items.  Once cheap copies make their way into the marketplace, they lose their identity and unknowing or unscrupulous sellers can list them as the real thing.  Unsuspecting buyers wound up paying for what they believed to be a top quality item, only to find out that they had a cheap Chinese copy.  In addition to the risk of someone getting cheated on a resale, the manufacturers were concerned that the poorly made optics would damage their own reputations and brand names, which had been established on the perceived quality of products and service.  The copies were not legal and the genuine manufacturers quite correctly wanted them to be neither listed nor purchased by anyone.  At that time DeadShot and several other companies were in legal battles with the Chinese companies in an effort to make them stop making the copies altogether.

Seven years ago there were some obvious ways of spotting knock-offs.  Unreasonably low sales prices (bearing in mind the significant shipping cost if being delivered from China) were a clear indication.  If the seller said that they offered to warranty the sight themselves then it was probably a fake.  Most manufacturers’ warranties are handled by sending the sight to their factory where they are re-tested by computer and verified as a genuine article and most sights are computer tested before being shipped from the U.S. factory.  The packaging could be a giveaway, too.  A nice box printed in exactly the correct colours, soft bag, printed instructions, warranty card, shrink wrap and so on had to be correct and complete and if not then they may not be original, which is a bad sign.

In 2006 DeadShot were alarmed at the number of their top-selling riflescopes – quality products – that were arriving at the firm’s U.S. headquarters for service.  These turned out to be counterfeit products not manufactured by DeadShot and consequently not covered by the DeadShot full lifetime warranty.  They put a raft of precautions in place.  The DeadShot website provides descriptions of their products together with examples of how to determine if a device is authentic or fake, thus offering potential purchasers the opportunity to educate themselves prior to purchasing a DeadShot product over the internet.  DeadShot issue customer alerts to potential purchasers of their products, particularly aimed at those considering making a purchase via the internet, warning them of bogus DeadShot products.  DeadShot also use a serial number tracking based system for all its riflescopes, so if a customer thinks that a scope that is suspect, this can readily be checked for authenticity with the manufacturer.

An example of bogus riflesight that I examined last year had ‘DeadShot’ laser engraved on the bottom of the turret in a silver etch and the black ring on the objective was etched in white and did not include the name ‘DeadShot’.   Authentic DeadShot riflescopes are  always engraved black on black and have the name ‘DeadShot’ engraved on the black ring.  The counterfeit scopes usually did not bear the DeadShot logo, which all genuine new DeadShot scopes carry.

In 2015 the situation has become trickier as the counterfeiters have become more professional and skilful.  These days counterfeits are often marked, branded and marketed just like the real items they imitate (this is less of a problem if the manufacturer admits to producing “replica” or “clone” items, but they are not, particularly when being promoted on-line).   They make exact copies, even down to the serial number and trade mark.  They no longer offer their products at a bargain price but quote the full retail price.  Sub-standard reject and counterfeit sights were sold to U.S. customers through on-line auctions, like eBay through sellers based in Hong Kong and Shanghai China and some other Asian countries.  Some still are but bootleggers now also break in to the supply chain closer to home.

SCENARIO:  a 20 foot container of rifle scopes arrives at a port in southern Asia and is added to a container stack to be trans-shipped in two days.  That night a trailer unit arrives and takes the container away, returning it next morning.  Only now it is full of bootleg rifle scopes.  The supply chain is compromised and the bootleggers have a container-load of genuine sights.  It happened.

Bootlegging sights is no longer a cottage industry run from a garage in Shanghai; it is big business.  Hunting with guns is a sporting activity that requires the right equipment and manufacturers charge a realistic price for their products.  You pay for a quality item and you expect to get what you pay for.  Bootlegging can spoil your sport, damage the manufacturer and, if they find their way into the police and security arenas (as they are), have even more serious consequences.

One way of safeguarding genuine products is to incorporate a chemical substance (called a ‘taggant’) into the coating of the sight, or into the paint highlighting the numbers on the scope’s dials, into the logo or into pretty much any part of the product, which, when exposed to particular types of light, glows a specific colour.  One U.S.-based manufacturer of this type of solution can even tune their product to indicate the date of manufacture.  When a sight is returned as sub-standard that provides a definite way of proving that the customer has got hold of a bootleg item so (as the lawyers say) caveat emptor or “you bought a junk item and it is not our responsibility to replace it for you”.

A wide range of suppliers unique marking systems which they claim will protect products from counterfeiting.  Not all of these claims are genuine.  A worldwide security marking provider, DataTraceDNA/DataDots, has, it is claimed by the Courier Newspaper of Australia, duped Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company, into using its security solution. What is apparent from the investigation is that, far from being unique to the security provider, the security marking product is based on bulk chemicals supplied as phosphors for the lighting industry. The inevitable consequence of this, the newspaper claims, is that the entire stock of Novartis “‘Voltaren” ampoules sold in Australia using the taggant has been compromised.

The counterfeit product market is booming and becoming more dangerous as the focus moves from clothing, shoes and handbags to medicines, pesticides and firearms.  I came across an H&K G3 machine-rifle a few months ago, destined for a prestige customer in the Middle East.  It was perfect in every detail but one: H&K assured me that they do not make gold-plated firearms!  Nope, it was not a Khyber Pass Special (my wife’s uncle owns a Pakistani copy of an S&W K38 that would have been all but perfect if they had spelled ‘Wesson’ with two “esses”) but copied in a properly tooled-up private arms factory.  The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that by the end of 2015 the economic value of counterfeiting will be $1.7 trillion[1] and while many of the products counterfeited are fashion and apparel items an increasing proportion of goods compromised by this form of economic piracy include weapons, ammunition, accessories and military electronics.

If you are a manufacturer, however, small-scale, you need the products of an anti-counterfeiting/security marking company that maintains a stringent control of their suppliers, manufactures their own marking chemicals and designs their own detector systems.  No security marking system is infallible but the professional approach of the better companies in the market, and the stringent control regimes they have in place, will give you security for your products and allow your customers to buy with confidence.

[1] Steve Hargreaves @CNNMoney

Verimaster anti-counterfeiting technology

 

Portable Verimaster Detector Units

Background.

Historically counterfeiting has been seen as an issue for luxury consumer goods manufacturers. However, counterfeiting affects many more technology-based products ranging from components through high value pharmaceuticals onwards to accessories and enhancements to military systems such as optical sights, personal protection weapons and beyond.

Counterfeiting has become such a problem that at least one US accessory supplier has had their distribution network compromised twice in the last five years.

Consequently, within the supply networks of many products, feature goods of inferior quality that cause increased risk to performance, health and profitability

The purpose of this brief post is to introduce Verimaster® a superbly effective yet simple solution to the critical need to protect your supply chain from corruption through counterfeiting.

The Verimaster® Product

Characteristics. The product, developed by an Anglo-American alliance, is based on a blend of high strength ceramic seeded with inorganic oxides. The combination is chemically inert, immune to ageing or leaching and long-lived.

Very importantly, unlike some basic tagging systems it neither impairs performance of the doped product nor can it be counterfeited without criminals incurring significant costs. Verimaster® is also far less complex and much more easily utilised than the advanced DNA tag typing which has recently been used in very high value products.

Operation.

The product works by incorporating the additive into the manufacturing process at a doping level suitable for the chosen application. When stimulated by a non-visible laser or an audio detector the additive produces either a visual signal or an audible warning to indicate that the product being tested is genuine. Each sensor is supplied as a portable, battery-operated unit. Alternatively the audio sensor can be incorporated into a larger portal for warehouse applications.

Doped Plastic Feedstock illuminated by the Verimaster Laser Detector

The Verimaster® security additive can be incorporated into a wide-range of substrates including textiles, plastic feedstock, inks, laminates, coatings, adhesives, varnishes and paints. Consequently it can be added uniquely to particular components, colours or coatings; a choice that’s made by the customer and changed on an as required basis. It also means that the doping could be in the packaging of a component, system or accessory rather than in the physical product.

Applications.

The product is already being used in the following security applications:

  1. Human protection systems
  2. Financial services and systems
  3. High quality branded consumer products
  4. High value leisure services

In all examples the additive has had no affect on the doped product nor has detection performance deteriorated with operation, storage or environmental exposure. The use of Verimaster® to protect products in these applications has led to major cost savings, brand protection and the detection of criminal activity.

Concept of Operations

Example supply chain application of the Verimaster® system include:

  1. A sub-system printed circuit board (PCB)
  2. An pharmaceutical
  3. Emergency Service personnel uniform

PCB. The wide range of substrates that can be doped mean a genuine PCB can be identified by: the board itself, a protective coating, or a printed logo on the board. Equally individual components can be “marked” as genuine

A Pharmaceutical. Depending on the type of drug and level of supply chain control exercised by the manufacturer. The doping material could be used in the box, blister or the drug caplet itself.

Emergency Services. One of Verimaster®’s principal applications is in clothing. The additive has no effect on the structure, colour or wear of the doped textile and can be incorporated emergency services uniform manufacture with confidence. Example applications include: Identity markings, identity cards, insignia, nametags, webbing, and caps/helmets.

Flexible application means genuine uniforms and so genuine people are quickly and simply identified.

Verimaster® therefore presents a major opportunity to protect genuine products without any impairment of performance.

Anticipated Benefits

The primary benefit of utilising security doping is in the protection of genuine products, systems and accessories throughout your supply chain.

Secondary benefits include:

  • Confidence in product replacement
  • Improvements in ARM performance
  • Identification of reliable and untrustworthy suppliers
  • Date/batch marking or system specific identification marking
  • Personnel protection through security marking of individual uniforms, accessories and equipment
    • Criminal investigation and prosecution

Conclusions

Counterfeit goods are a significant threat to safety, security, and product performance. It can lead to the impairment of delivered capability/serviceability with your customers. The Verimaster® additive is a viable, readily used technology to combat these threats. It is inert, long-lived, has no impact on performance and is simple to use. Existing utilisation in a number of complex, high-value or secure services demonstrates transferability to many commercial domains and so presents an excellent opportunity to secure the your supply chain from the impact of counterfeit goods