06/22/2012 | Editor: Dominik Stephan
Copies, fakes and imitations pose a problem for nearly every segment of industry including electronics, automotive products, apparel, music, food and investment goods. Counterfeiting is booming. Goods that used to be sold at bazars or under the counter are now available on the Internet to anyone anywhere. Imitations are not just a problem for consumers sitting in front of their PCs. Wholesalers and retailers as well are often victimized by sophisticated organized crime networks which produce and distribute counterfeit products.
The cross-industry, plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was introduced in 2011, establishes an international legal framework for international cooperation, enforcement practices and exploitation of intellectual property rights.
A few industries have already set up organizations to combat product counterfeiting. The pharmaceutical industry is one of them. Few counterfeit products can have such serious consequences for consumers as imitation pharmaceuticals. Quite apart from the financial losses incurred by the companies involved, counterfeit drugs represent a danger to consumer health. The list of risks includes inefficacy, harmful substances and over or under dosage of the active ingredients. A few years ago in Africa, anti-freeze instead of glycerin was added to cough medicine, causing the deaths of several hundred people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has created the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) which is attempting to bring nations together in an effort to stop the production, trade and sales of imitation pharmaceuticals. IMPACT is sponsored by international organizations, NGOs, law enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical trade associations, drug agencies and regulatory bodies.
The list includes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), WTO, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the European Commission and OECD. Taskforce Working Groups are addressing the legal framework, implementation and enforcement of regulations and anti-counterfeiting and traceability technology for pharmaceutical products, but no standardized worldwide solution is currently in place. One Working Group is looking specifically at international standardization of product marking. Until uniform worldwide standards are in place, marking technology suppliers are being asked to come up with anticounterfeiting strategies.
As is the case with any other commercial item, identification features on pharmaceuticals are used for product authentication and to deter counterfeiters. Identification methods which are difficult to reproduce create enormous difficulties for imitators, and the costs involved in making copies are considerable.
There is a wide range of identification techniques to choose from, ranging from very simple to high-tech. Learn more about what technologies companies employ to protect their products and customers on page 2!
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