Using Advanced Tech to Keep Counterfeit Products Off the Market

Cosmetic Packaging Companies

According to a World Health Organization fact sheet on “spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit (SFFC)” medicines, SFFC drugs are both harmful, and a lot more common than you’d think.

“Some contain a declared, active ingredient and look so similar to the genuine product that they deceive health professionals as well as patients,” states the fact sheet, published in 2012.

It goes on to say that in over 50% of cases, medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites have been found to be counterfeit.

In all cases, these counterfeit drugs are illegal, and can result in treatment failure (in the case of cancer meds, for instance) or death.

And it’s not just the pharmaceutical sector that been plagued with product spoofs—electronics, food, and even automobile components have all had problems with counterfeit products. Not only are these falsified goods potentially harmful, but they also hurt consumer confidence in otherwise trusted companies.

So a lot of work is being done to lessen the impact of counterfeit products. A big part of this effort is the development of anti-counterfeit packaging.

In fact, the global market for anti-counterfeit packaging is expected to grow by $68 billion from 2015-2019, at a cumulative average growth rate of 15.21%.

Want to learn more about the packaging market? Click here to explore Technavio’s report library.

The prevention and detection of counterfeit products (including pharmaceuticals) are key considerations for the market. This is leading to the development of new systems for tracing and identification, intending to cut down on falsified products.

Three ways that anti-counterfeit packaging is helping keep products safe


Product traceability systems keep a record of product flow and track product attributes throughout the production process and logistics network. Since the manufacturing and distribution processes of any product are very complex, companies consider traceability as one of the key tools for solving issues with counterfeits. These systems provide point-of-origin information of things like pharmaceuticals and food, which means that consumers can be confident that they know what they’re buying, and where it’s coming from.

Global anti-counterfeit packaging market overview

Source: Technavio, 2015

3D barcodes

In a step towards actually preventing the counterfeiting to begin with, engineers are developing 3D barcodes. These barcodes—which aren’t visible to the naked eye—can be inserted into products at the manufacturing stage. The idea is that this will make products like food, cars, electronics and pharmaceuticals harder to spoof, and cut down on the number of fakes on the market.

At the moment, the technology is quite new. In September 2015, Sofmat announced the development of the first 3D barcode in collaboration with researchers at Bradford University. The barcode developed by Sofmat is limited to products that are made using injected molding process and that use molded plastics and composites. But heightened interest in the technology will likely lead to advancements over the forecast period.

Chipless printable RFID technology

RFID is an anti-counterfeit tool that provides a combination of protective functions, including authentication, traceability, and tamper evidence. Technavio expects these attributes to attract vendors to chipless and nanotech-based RFID products over the next few years.

Like 3D barcodes, the technology is still evolving. Monash University researchers have developed fully printable chipless RFID tags for metals bottles and cans. These RFID tags can be attached to a reflective surface using an inkjet printer. The idea is that printing directly onto packaging would make the process cost-effective and faster than other anti-counterfeit technologies.

For more information on anti-counterfeit packaging technologies, check out Technavio’s new report.