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UN's new counterfeit campaign

The UN counterfeit campaign is a clarion call for more to be done - and quickly - to deal with the problem, including increased integration of holograms as part of brand protection strategies

Ian Lancaster The International Hologram Manufacturers Association

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ‘Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organised crime’ initiative will boost awareness but is again taking the opportunity to urge organisations to review brand protection and authentication strategies and, if necessary, redouble their efforts to stem ‘the massive worldwide problem’ of counterfeit goods.

The UNODC’s campaign highlights the link between organised crime and the trade in counterfeit goods, which it says amounts to US$250 billion a year. Fraudulent goods also present a serious health risk to consumers. Criminal activity in this area is big business: the sale of fraudulent medicines, for example, from East Asia and the Pacific to South-East Asia and Africa alone amounts to some US$5 billion per year.

Counterfeiting touches virtually everyone in one way or another, posing a serious risk to health and safety – but the figure reported by the UNODC could be just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the true cost could be even higher, because it’s difficult to put a price on a global problem and account for the damage caused by counterfeiting to corporate reputations and the loss of market share.

The UNODC campaign is a sobering reminder that the war on counterfeiting continues unabated and reinforces once again the need to protect not only brands from the criminals but consumers who are at risk from products that do not comply with health and safety requirements.

It’s a timely clarion call for brand owners and those responsible for legislation that more must be done - and quickly - to deal with the problem and this might include increased integration of holograms as part of brand protection strategies.

Increasing adoption of holography in counterfeiting hot-spots like China, India and east Europe are reinforcing the technology’s position as a pre-eminent security feature in the global anti-counterfeiting fight.

Security holograms on a vast array of products can ensure quality and make sure that smuggled and illicit goods not displaying security holograms are seized and destroyed.

Holography continues to play a key role as a highly effective, extremely flexible weapon in the ongoing battle to thwart counterfeiters and fraudsters.

All involved in the supply chain - manufacturers, distributors, consumers, tax authorities - will be reassured by the presence of holograms on products and recognise the benefits they provide. And as coding and serialisation becomes mandated in various countries for products such as medicines and tobacco products, the ability to incorporate QR, data matrix and other types of code in to holograms further enhances the role they can play in supply chain control.”

The use of well-designed and properly deployed authentication solutions, as advocated in ISO’s 12931 standard, on authentication solutions, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from the counterfeits coming out of China. Even those that carry a ‘fake’ authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) is made up of 100 of the world's leading hologram companies. IHMA members are the leading producers and converters of holograms for banknote security, anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, packaging, graphics and other commercial applications around the world. IHMA member companies actively cooperate to maintain the highest professional, security and quality standards.

More about the UN campaign at

3 March 2014