In our latest Innovation Spotlight, brand protection specialists Systech highlight one potential solution to the issue of counterfeiting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protect your products NOW. The secret is in your barcode…

As the world battles COVID-19, product manufacturers and associated supply chains are being stressed like never before. Unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and targeted treatments has sent manufacturers scrambling. And it has created the perfect storm for criminals looking to profit from a pandemic.

Unprecedented supply chain threats

Counterfeiting of COVID-19 related products has escalated into a pandemic of its own. Any search for “counterfeit COVID-19” will return a bevy of articles on fake PPE, tests, vaccines, and other associated items. And the result of purchasing a counterfeit healthcare product is potentially lethal.

Regardless of what channel a product is procured, the first line of protection is its packaging. Even before COVID-19, manufacturers were deploying a host of overt and covert mechanisms on packages to thwart counterfeiters. Unfortunately, counterfeiters also have access to these same technologies, which can make fake products look just like authentic products.

When something is brand new—like COVID-19 tests or therapies—there is no history, no experience with the product and its packaging. This gives counterfeiters an even greater advantage for introducing fakes into the legitimate supply chain.


The perfect platform for diversion

To make matters worse, e-commerce has exacerbated the distribution of fake products with genuine-looking imposters and storefronts on platforms like Amazon. The internet makes for easy distribution of counterfeits. It also creates an ideal distribution channel for diverted items—swiped before reaching their intended destination and sold at different prices. Given the high demand for certain COVID-19 related products—or any successful product—diversion is another big issue to tackle.

What if there was a way for manufacturers to quickly add a digital layer of protection to their products that’s impossible to counterfeit? A way to track individual items as they move across the supply chain? And most importantly, a way in which anyone receiving the product could verify authenticity before using it?

Failproof anti-counterfeiting – your packaging is the key

The answer to all these questions is a simple barcode. Think about it… Every package has some type of barcode. It could be a serialized 2D barcode used for pharmaceutical compliance. Or a UPC code used for stock-keeping and point-of-purchase scanning. Maybe it’s a QR code used for consumer engagement programs. It’s time to leverage what you already have to combat these supply chain threats.


But how? Printing is a dynamic process. There are environmental factors such as line speed, humidity, and substrate that create micro-variations in the printed mark. This unseen noise can be used to derive a unique digital identifier, or e-Fingerprint®​, for each individual product. While you may have one million of the same UPC barcode printed on as many products, e-Fingerprinting allows you to individually identify each one uniquely.

This solution taps into the power and ubiquity of smartphones. Users can quickly and easily scan these barcodes anywhere in the supply chain using a mobile app. The non-additive nature of the technology represents a substantial cost saving on capital purchase, artwork redesign, and change management compared to additive digital solutions like RFID. Finally, using an element of the package itself means that this anti-counterfeiting solution will not delay product rollout and help accelerate safe delivery globally.

Ensure that every product is authentic, safe, and digitally connected to protect the people who need them. Global brands rely on Systech to secure their supply chains. You can too!

This content was sponsored by Systech.