In response to Articles 15 (Traceability) and 16 (Security feature) of the second Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU, the European Commission published on May 7, 2015, an analysis and feasibility report defining the technical standards for traceability and authentication of tobacco products.

274 solution providers were identified and contacted. The organization representatives who provided “real” facts and who were successful in conducting and completing a survey were retained. Of the 44 organizations that completed the survey process, 32 were providers of a track and trace solution and 38 of a security feature suitable for the tobacco industry.

As with the Directive, the report reinforces the fact that tracking and tracing alone does not provide sufficient protection against attempts to counterfeit or manipulate tobacco products. Instead, “Combining authentication and traceability provides a robust mechanism to combat counterfeiting, detect smuggled goods not authorized for an internal market, and guard against goods movement frauds […] within and between EU Member States.” I

In addition, the report makes the case for “security layering” II which involves combining multiple security features (overt, covert, forensic) to mitigate the risk of counterfeiting, tampering, and diversion.

Because AlpVision is a leading provider of covert security features for anti-counterfeiting and product authentication, including tobacco products, the remainder of this article will focus on the range of security features identified and reviewed by the authors of the report, paying particular attention to invisible ones.

Providers of security feature technologies were organized in three groups III :

  1. Niche security feature providers, who offer a specialized, yet partial security feature solution package
  2. Digital security feature providers, who offer an alphanumeric code-based solution as an overt security feature for authentication
  3. Full service security feature providers, who offer solutions with overt, covert and forensic elements

Next, the report analyzes and rates each security feature technology against imitation, affordability, ease of training, prevalence of authentication device, and industry suitability. Among the covert security features, AlpVision’s Cryptoglyph technology ranks in the top ten. IV

As a reminder, AlpVision Cryptoglyph is a digital invisible marking that can be applied to tobacco and cigarette packaging using standard printing processes and regular visible ink or overprint varnish. A commercially available smartphone can be used to authenticate the covert security feature.

In addition to reviewing the security feature elements, the report also considers the method of application. Ways in which security features can be applied include:

  1. As part of the production of the packaging material itself
  2. In a specific element of the packaging
  3. Printed directly onto the product
  4. Self-contained (e.g. label, film or stamp)
  5. Fingerprinting of unique material properties of the package

AlpVision’s Cryptoglyph technology corresponds to the third method of application. According to the report, there are several advantages and disadvantages to applying the security feature during the printing process.

Because the security feature is printed onto the packaging material itself, the element is irremovable. This method also allows to quantify the volume of products protected based on the amount of ink or varnish used in the process. It is also ideal for large volumes, high-speed printing processes.

According to the report, however, direct printing of the security feature also comes with a number of limitations. For example, this method may constrain the design, color, size and position of the security feature on the packaging. Authentication may also only be available on a product volume base, rather than at an item level. Furthermore, this process may not be appropriate for small production volumes and non-automated printing processes. Finally, adding the security feature during the printing process may be intrusive and require on-going maintenance.

These disadvantages may be true for certain covert security features, but not always for AlpVision Cryptoglyph. Because Cryptoglyph is a digital invisible marking that is applied to packaging and labels using regular visible ink or varnish and standard printing processes, it is non-intrusive and totally invisible. Because it is invisible to the naked eye, it is not limited by packaging design, color or size. It is also fully compatible with a layered approach to security. Finally, because it is commercialized under license agreements as an entirely customizable turnkey computerized system, Cryptoglyph deployment requires little to no training and maintenance. Finally, it is detectable using a standard smartphone, making it as readily available to enforcement officials as to consumers alike.

As a consequence, while AlpVision Cryptoglyph may not, by itself, provide a “full service” security feature package, it can happily co-exist with other overt and forensic security elements, as well as track and trace solutions, while providing defense in depth.

While the report proves to be a first good step in recognizing the importance of security features in protecting tobacco products from illicit trade, AlpVision disagrees with some of the recommendations made, particularly those pertaining to applying security features by means of a label. AlpVision will be providing input to the further implementation work on a future EU system for traceability and security features during the consultation period open until July 31st.

I European Commission, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, Analysis and Feasibility Assessment Regarding EU systems for Tracking and Tracing of Tobacco Products and for Security Features, Final Report, 2015, Retrieved on 7 June 2015 from ec.europa.eu p. 71

IISee Reference 1, p. 70

IIISee Reference 1, p. 22

IVSee Reference 1, p. 136

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