U-NICA Jan 31, 2020 2:52:33 PM 9 min read

The Background of Anti-Counterfeit

The history of anti-counterfeiting technology is a tale of the fight against crime. From the first attempts to the multi-tiered measures of today, the war goes on with U-NICA at the forefront. 

Counterfeits have dogged humanity for most of our history, with the earliest recorded criminal acts of this kind dating back to the fifth century. Since then, counterfeiting has sadly gone from strength to strength. In the words of Teresa Moreira, the Head of Competition and Consumer Policies at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: “If illicit trade were an economy, it would be the eighth largest in the world.”

Allow me to put that into perspective. If “Counterfeit Land” existed on the map, it would displace Italy in the Top 10 largest economies and account for a GDP of over $2 trillion. How did criminals gain such traction, especially in our modern age where technological achievements in anti-counterfeit measures are at an all-time high?

The answer is that modern counterfeiters are just as tech-savvy as those who oppose them, and they’re being helped by the limited understanding and insufficient security practices of retailers worldwide.

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A quick history of anti-counterfeit measures 

The war on counterfeits is many centuries old, but I’ll highlight America in the year 1739 and one of its Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. His solution to counterfeits checked the two boxes we still go by today:

  • It let the recipient verify the authenticity of the currency
  • It made it more difficult for counterfeiters to create and distribute fakes


Franklin’s solution was ingenious and used the counterfeiter’s need to create a perfect copy against them. He deliberately misprinted a key identifier on the genuine notes, believing that criminals would see the real things as forgeries and rectify the error on their own forgeries. This reverse psychology worked, and it helped strengthen the integrity of America’s currency. Franklin was also ahead of his time in employing multi-tiered security via intricate relief designs.

Counterfeiters didn’t stay gullible for long, however. The 19th century saw private banks creating their own currencies, which were rife with forgeries until 1865 when the National Banks Act prohibited individual institutions printing cash. The U.S. federal currency took sole precedence and the Secret Service was founded to fight counterfeiters, which it does to this day.

The great fear of banks was always that the value of real money would plummet due to counterfeits. Today, the threat to value is still the essence of anti-counterfeiting as currencies around the globe continue to be attacked and “supernotes” — fakes of very high quality — remain in circulation, fooling even experienced money handlers. But the concept of value has evolved beyond currency.


Money is no longer the only problem

It’s true that counterfeit cash is far less of a threat than in the past thanks to multiple security measures like special papers, holograms, watermarks and microprinting, but value in 21st-Century terms goes beyond currency. It extends to the products, brands and reputations of retailers around the globe as consumers are either fooled or willingly purchasing fakes.

Today, counterfeiters aren’t the scattered pockets of criminal workshops they historically were. They’re highly organized operators often with manufacturing and production capabilities to rival the legitimate manufacturers they fake. It’s essential for today’s brands to protect their physical products, which is why consumers are now used to such features as super-tough packaging, holograms, imprinted logos on zippers and serial-stamped inner tags.

Placing as many physical security measures as possible on a product can certainly confound counterfeiters, but complete protection goes beyond the physical product at the point of sale to cover every point of that product’s lifecycle — from conception to prototype and manufacturing to distribution. If these criminals are ever to be stopped, we all must work as a team to make it happen.


U-NICA scryptoTRACE® and the future of anti-counterfeit

 That’s my look at the past and present of anti-counterfeit. Today and tomorrow, the U-NICA team is working hard to make the future a very tough time for counterfeiters. The core service revolves around beating these criminals through product verification, but scryptoTRACE® is our scalable solution that takes a holistic approach to protecting the value of your products and your brand.

U-NICA scryptoTRACE® is an end-to-end brand value and product protection solution that can be integrated into all stages of the product value chain, from design and manufacturing to distribution, sales and purchasing. It utilizes our unique smartphone app for verification, authentication and engagement, and it provides detailed real-time information to better inform your security decisions.

As a collective force of agencies, universities and affiliates, collaboration for the greater good is at the heart of what we do at U-NICA. It’s also why scryptoTRACE® can integrate with other enterprise systems along with foreign and new marking/recognition technologies.

I encourage you to investigate what we can offer and to enjoy the brand security benefits of our committed coalition against counterfeiters. Crushing counterfeits is going to be a serious challenge, but it’s a goal that’s within our grasp.

U-NICA is a team with a single purpose: Supporting you in the fight to protect your brand’s integrity and value. Our staff operates globally and partners with universities and agencies to deliver the future of brand protection. Connect with us for more information on our constantly evolving open solution suite.