No chance for imitators

Sustainability initiative: Counterfeit prevention

Product counterfeiting causes considerable damage to businesses. According to a study by the European Commission, 2011 saw the seizure of more than 103 million counterfeit products, which were responsible for over EUR 1.1 billion of economic damage – and these figures are set to increase. By our calculations for mechanical engineering in OstWestfalenLippe, this equates to around EUR 680 million in lost revenue and some 3,200 job losses in 2011. The Leading-Edge Cluster it’s OWL is particularly involved in developing intelligent products that are likely to have considerable market potential, making them highly attractive to product counterfeiters. It is vitally important for original manufacturers to protect their products from the start if they wish to survive. Existing protective mechanisms are not equipped for this as yet. Newly developed, intelligent products are extremely complex as they are based on interaction between engineering and information technology and integrate new functions such as self-optimization. There is a need to develop new protective processes that are specially tailored to these products.

The aim of the counterfeit prevention sustainability measure is to develop a set of tools – including a process to identify potential threats and a database of protective mechanisms – to provide preventive protection for intelligent products. In this way, companies can integrate suitable protective measures as early as the product development stage.

This is accomplished by expanding on ConImit’s threat assessment-based analysis of product protection needs. Companies can use this to identify what development, materials and manufacturing technologies are at risk and in need of particular protection, e.g. the control “intelligence” in a device or the specific functional properties of a nozzle. Sensitive technologies can therefore be protected with individually designed measures that companies can use as early as the product development stage. Examples include integrating hidden markings or product properties that require the use of new “additive” manufacturing processes. The functionality and effectiveness of the threat analysis and protective measures are tested on selected products. Based on this experience, the protective measures are optimized in terms of user-friendliness and practicality, and then made available in a database.

The set of tools developed in the project allows companies to effectively protect their new products against counterfeiting by independently identifying potential threats and integrating suitable protective mechanisms as early as the product development stage, which provides a competitive edge. The results can be used by many businesses, for instance in mechanical engineering, the electrical industry and the automotive supply industry. The toolkit is self-supporting. To ensure its continuation once cluster funding expires, a network must be established to protect against product counterfeiting and the internet platform must be developed further.

Project duration
01 January 2013 - 30 June 2017

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