Banknotes, passports, certificates, checks, identity cards; security inks are found in all of these items and more. They support authentication and reduce the risks of tampering and counterfeiting.
Yet when it comes to brand protection where brands need to protect against fraudulent claims, retail theft, diversion, and counterfeiting – security ink simply isn’t suitable.
In order to make a choice that’s truly secure, it’s important to understand why security and taggant inks aren’t good enough for brand protection.
What are security inks?
Security inks are inks that serve as security features in printed goods such as labels, documents, or packaging. There is a wide variety of security inks available, all with the aim to protect against fraudulent reproduction and counterfeiting. Some examples are invisible ultraviolet ink, visible fluorescent ink, infrared invisible ink, magnetic ink character recognition (MICR), and taggant ink.
The right security ink for a specific situation will depend on the application, required level of security, and the environment that the ink will be in.
What are taggants?
Taggants are unique chemical compounds that come along with a special detector. They work together in the same way that a lock and key do.
Taggants have many uses; security ink is one of them, where the taggant can act as a form of anti-counterfeiting. These anti-counterfeit inks can be used on security labels or even on product packaging itself, as they’re well-suited to be used on myriad substrates.
The features of taggants that make them suitable for anticounterfeiting measures include being:
- Uniquely encoded like a fingerprint
- Able to be visible or invisible to the naked eye
- Able to be detected with special equipment
- Able to be field-tested with low-cost detectors
- Permanent and unremovable once integrated into an item
Taggants are used in the authentication and/or anticounterfeiting of many items, including:
- Security documents
- Tax stamps
Problems with security and taggant ink
Infra-red or infra-violet inks are easy to replicate
Both infra-red and infra-violet inks both provide a very basic level of brand and product security. The method for detecting them (UV lamps) is widely available and so are the inks themselves. This wide availability means that it’s easy for counterfeiters to replicate these fluorescent inks.
The very premise of anticounterfeiting inks is that they shouldn’t be easy to replicate. If the security feature on a product that’s meant to render it authentic can be and is successfully copied, there’s no way to tell which version of that product is the authentic one.
Reliance on a certain supplier
Security and taggant inks by their nature must be created by a certain supplier. This is necessary because in order to perform their function, these inks must be not only unique but top secret as well. They can’t simply be made by any company. A brand has to decide on a supplier and then stick to them, which can raise problems.
The main issue for the brand is that they would be entirely dependent on this supplier. If the supplier experiences supply chain issues, decides on a price hike, or even needs to close down their business, there is little to nothing that the brand can do. This level of dependency that the brand might experience isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be downright damaging.
Requirement of a specific device
Security and taggant inks require the brand using them to own a specific device to view the ink markings (when they are invisible to the naked eye). In the case of taggant inks, the device in question has to read the unique chemical identity of the ink and verify it.
This creates the need for extra time, effort, and money to procure, store, maintain, and even replace these devices.
Problem of supply
The reliance on one supplier to provide the specific inks means that if there is a problem with the supply of the ink, there will be a knock-on effect on the brand’s ability to supply their goods to their customers. Not only will a disruption like this create monetary issues, but the brand’s reputation will suffer as well. If this issue is a persistent one, the brand’s reputation may never recover.
Nothing lasts forever and security inks are no exception. Brands who use security and taggant inks as a form of anticounterfeiting need to worry about the inks’ expiration, where they may no longer be legible, whether to the naked eye or via their specific special detectors.
When the ink is no longer visible or legible, they then lose their anticounterfeiting value as the goods they were printed on no longer have any distinguishable security features that guarantee their authenticity and origin.
Security inks are unique chemical compounds and depending on the specific ink, can end up being toxic to varying degrees. These inks can pose threats to human as well as animal safety, which is a terrible risk for not only customers but staff working for the brand that use these inks as well. The ink may even (through the humans that handle the products) transfer to pets and pose threats to them as well.
The word toxic simply means that a substance can cause harm: this harm can range from something as menial as a rash to more serious issues such as even blindness or in serious cases, death. Of course, this depends entirely on the amount of toxic substance that someone has encountered and how long that they have been exposed to it.
Necessity of secure storage
Aside from all of the reasons outlined above, theft risk makes it clear that brands need to take special care when storing goods that are marked with security ink.
Because of the unavoidable risk of tampering or duplication of the anticounterfeiting inks, they must be stored with the utmost secrecy and security. If people can’t get to the goods, it follows that they generally can’t counterfeit them.
However, this means that brands have to allocate a large amount of resources for secure storage, such as surveillance cameras, security guards, and possibly even armored vehicles during transport.
Robustness to heat and moisture
Security and taggant inks are not always as robust as expected to heat and moisture. They can break down and degrade, becoming unreadable and sometimes even rendering the product that they’re printed on unusable.
This means that the brand using them needs to store them carefully to prevent that degradation while at the same time worrying about replacing products that have degraded, whether before or after they’re in the hands of customers.
The costs associated with using security and taggant inks go beyond simply procuring them. Brands that use these inks must have a continuous supply of the ink, often need to have specific machines to apply the ink onto products, have specific machines to view and/or verify the ink, put security measures in place to keep the inked products safe, temperature and humidity regulation for the storage of the inked goods – the list goes on.
In addition to all of that, it’s an uphill battle when it comes to using security inks. A brand must constantly be on the lookout for counterfeited versions of their goods and be able to react swiftly when they are found. They have to either redesign their markings, or increase their complexity. The time, effort, and manhours involved in doing so takes a significant amount of money.
And finally, security inks can often render paper goods that would otherwise be recyclable unrecyclable. This is because all inked paper that is set to be recycled must first be de-inked. Certain security inks, such as UV and IR inks, require a lot more effort and special processes to de-ink than normal printer ink. Many companies don’t want to go to the extra trouble and simply throw away goods that have been printed on with security inks.
This might not be too large an issue for the average consumer who wants to keep their key documents (such as certificates, passports, and identity cards) even after they are expired or can no longer be used.
However, in the long run eventually all the goods that security inks are printed onto must eventually be disposed. If they are not recyclable, this is a massive amount of goods that must be tossed into a landfill, burned, or otherwise disposed of instead of being recycled into usable goods once more.
Security and taggant inks might be one of the most popular anticounterfeiting measures available, but that doesn’t mean they are the best. The problems outlined above mean that it’s time for a better solution.
AlpVision Cryptoglyph® is exactly that. Both digital and invisible, it’s a perfect match for printed products. It provides excellent packaging and label protection where the authenticity of the product that it’s applied to can be verified with just a smartphone application.
Our patented Cryptoglyph technology is very simple but incredibly effective. It’s well suited for all printed products because it’s based on the addition of thousands of covert micro-holes to the varnish or solid colors of the printed product.
This technology leaves counterfeiters dumbfounded as there’s simply no way to fake or duplicate Cryptoglyph.
Its protection technology is industrially proven and especially suited to large-scale deployments. It’s easily integrated into any printing process with zero additional production cost and any smartphone can become a detector to verify a product’s authenticity, making it very cost-effective.
While powerful on its own, Cryptoglyph works best in tandem with other security solutions so that your business can enjoy a robust security ecosystem.
Still unsure about which technology you should choose?
AlpVision has many security solutions available. If you’d like to read more about our anti-counterfeit software so that you can make an informed decision on which options are best suited for your brand
Please do download our white paper