In previous blogs, I explained how we see brand protection and brand value protection from different perspectives and that to develop our technologies, tools, methods and processes, we start from a total of three perspectives with different focuses. As I have said before, this conceptual differentiation may well deviate from your understanding and does not claim to be universally valid, but I have already shown how this differentiated view of the spheres of action is useful in order to develop the right support for our customers in their fight against product piracy using a holistic and sustainable approach. From the point of view of brand value protection, product protection is in turn only a focused aspect. In contrast to brand protection, which focuses on the protection of rights and their enforcement by legal means, product protection focuses on the application of technical protective measures against product piracy, such as counterfeit-proof labelling, the provision of transport tracking, the means of preventing the ability to copy and the protection of knowledge about technologies.
Protective mechanisms, however, are often confronted with desires which limit their applicability when they are applied by brand owners. Such desires may be that the mechanisms are invisible, that they do not impact existing processes, designs, procedures etc. or that they do not require additional equipment. Further limitations may arise from the substrate on which the protection is to be applied. Further, possibly restrictive requirements arise from what the material to be protected is exposed to (light, humidity, heat, dust, abrasion, etc.). In the course of the development of protection technologies, restrictions are increasingly defined. The protection mechanisms available from technology and application are thus given defined application windows in which they function well with a certain reliability. There are several product protection features which are mostly are applied in isolation, due to their cost. When we talk about product protection solutions, these are so-called single feature or single technology solutions. Regardless of how secure the feature is, product pirates always seek to copy, imitate, or bypass the protection. If this succeeds with a single technology or single feature solution, the protection is gone and perhaps even more seriously, they are recognized as originals. Therefore, it is not a goal to develop a protection concept based on such a single-X protection mechanism. When we talk about protection solutions, it is therefore always a question of developing a protection concept that defines a suitable combination of protection elements that provide scalable protection for a given application.
In addition, protection solutions should make it possible to monitor the development of the threat of counterfeiting in the long term and to build up knowledge to support the targeted planning of further steps based on the insights gained. For example, our basic product protection paradigm could be expressed in this way: when I invest in product protection, a protection concept must be such that I can learn as much information as possible about how the risk of product piracy is developing over time. There is no doubt that the use of product protection elements should have a rapid effect, but in terms of the longer-term effect of sustainably curbing counterfeiting, the building of knowledge is certainly more important. In order to enrich this knowledge, which is directly linked to product protection, and to gain further insights, it is absolutely essential that the different systems involved in the value chain of the product can be integrated to a certain extent with the product protection system. In addition to enriching the data, the secure integration of the participating systems such as order management, track and trace, logistics and transport systems, production systems, legal systems, Internet tracking systems etc., even gaps filled protect the knowledge and allow an overall view of the effect of all measures and the change of the different risk patterns.
The step to start with brand value protection and take active action against counterfeiting often takes place at a time when noticeable, intolerable damage has already occurred. This means that the time pressure is high and the patience to develop concepts is understandably limited. In order not to sacrifice the longer-term leverage effect to short-term measures, it is necessary to use an open protection solution. This allows a comprehensive protection concept to be developed in parallel through continuous, convergent adjustments that can be made quickly and easily.
It may be that the impression could arise momentarily that product protection is something very complex, that it takes a lot of time to implement and even longer before any effect can be achieved. Since we are used to finding the one, optimal solution, this impression is understandable, but not true. A protection concept should not be geared to all eventualities but should be designed in such a way that it provides an elastic path and defines how different challenges can be responded to within a convergent framework. The framework defined by the protection concept is intended to provide information about which means can be used for measures in new situations, processes and methods for the rapid implementation of measures and how existing means can be extended with protection elements, interfaces and integrations.
On the basis of a framework designed in this way, which enables an agile and sustainable protection concept, it is also right to quickly take a first step with very limited measures, to gain initial insights, to learn and, based on this, to tackle the next steps.