29-Jan-2018 - University of Copenhagen

Challenging counterfeit products with rare earths

New marking technique could halt product piracy

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have developed the world's most secure marking system for combatting pirated goods including pirated pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, designer merchandise and artwork. The system could be on the market in a year and because the markings are random, it cannot be hacked.

Companies around the world consistently suffer significant economic losses due to counterfeited goods made by pirate manufacturers for whom international patents are of no concern. Nor do these pirates lose sleep over placing people's lives at risk when, for example, they sell dangerous and counterfeit medications online.

However, tough times are on the horizon for pirates according to four researchers from the University of Copenhagen's Nano Science Center. They have developed a system that head of research and associate professor Thomas Just Sørensen of the University of Copenhagen's Department of Chemistry calls "the safest in the world" when it comes to clamping down on all types of pirate manufacturing: "The system, which deploys three rare earths among other things, is based on randomness, which makes it unable to be hacked or tampered with", says one of the researchers Thomas Just Sørensen: "As soon as a customer asks that an authorized dealer checks up on a piece of merchandise that was meant to be marked using the system, an expensive wrist watch for example, the dealer can access a manufacturer database to check its authenticity."

The probability of two products having the same 'fingerprints' - the same digital key - is so minuscule, that in practice, it can only be described as non-existent," explains Sørensen. "It corresponds to a one out of an enormous number composed of a 6 followed by 104 zeros."

Can be on the market in a year

The University of Copenhagen has taken out a patent on the marking system and it is expected to be on the market in roughly a year. Researchers are currently fine-tuning scanning solutions to ready the system for manufacturers. According to Thomas Just Sørensen: "We estimate that it will take approximately one year, at which point we will be very close to being able to put a commercial version on the market."

Researchers estimate that the cost of marking products will be modest, probably not much more than one Danish krone. Additional expenses from the data systems have yet to be fully estimated.

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • counterfeit drugs
  • counterfeiting analysis
  • University of Copenhagen
  • product piracy
More about University of Copenhagen
  • News

    Chemists to capture atmospheric methane with sugar

    Researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Science are in the process of finding out. Methane gas is 86 times more potent than CO2 and one of the major contributors to global warming. It is estimated that methane accounts for 30 percent of all global warming from gaseous emiss ... more

    New class of substances detected in atmospheric chemistry

    An international research team has now succeeded in detecting hydrotrioxides (ROOOH) for the first time under atmospheric conditions. Until now, there was only speculation that these organic compounds with the unusual OOOH group exist. In laboratory experiments, their formation during the o ... more

    Reusable plastic bottles release hundreds of chemicals

    Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found several hundred different chemical substances in tap water stored in reusable plastic bottles. Several of these substances are potentially harmful to human health. There is a need for better regulation and manufacturing standards for ma ... more