Protecting consumer goods from counterfeits with NFC tags

10 February 2023
Using authentication NFC tags to protect against counterfeit consumer goods.

The sale of fake and counterfeit goods such as clothing, toys, perfume and more has reached an all-time high over the past few years. Many put this rise down to the increased amount of online shopping as there is less scrutiny over items that are bought and sold.

The counterfeit market is estimated to be worth nearly $600 billion a year, an increase of more than 10,000% in 20 years

While there are some consumers that do not see a problem with fake items – a way to ‘experience’ a luxury brand without spending the money - there is a darker side to counterfeiting that is causing serious problems. Items such as children’s toys, electrical gadgets and components for machinery can cause injury, illness or even a threat to life due to substandard or dangerous materials and poor manufacturing or design. 

In short, counterfeiting is a major problem in the consumer goods industry, causing financial losses for legitimate businesses and potentially endangering consumers who unknowingly purchase fake products. However, there is one great new solution to combat the issue - NFC (near-field communication) anti-counterfeit technology.

How Can NFC Anti-Counterfeit Technology Solve the Problem?

NFC technology is a form of wireless communication that allows for the exchange of data between devices, such as smartphones and NFC tags, when they are in close proximity to one another. Authentication NFC tags can be embedded into products, allowing consumers to quickly and easily verify the authenticity of a product using their smartphone. NFC tags can store a variety of information, including a unique product code, that can be checked against a database of legitimate products. 

Authentication NFC tags such as NXP’s NTAG 424 generate a unique code each time they are scanned which can be verified by a third-party server. Unlike regular NFC tags, which can be duplicated, authentication tags render copying useless, making them ideal for verifying the authenticity of products. When paired with a tag management system like ixkio, customers can be sure that the items they purchase are legitimate, safe, and authentic.

Which Brands Are Using NFC Tags?

An increasing number of brands are now using NFC tags to authenticate their products, allowing customers to verify the authenticity of their purchases. Some examples include:

In 2022, Mulberry announced that it will digitalise all of it's products with NFC tags by 2025. Starting with adding NFC tags to their pre-owned bags in its resale program (the Mulberry exchange) and continuing to their leather good items. This was done a year after NFCW released an article stating that Italian fashion house Prada will soon be authenticating products using NFC tags. These tags will also be able to inform customers on product and access information such as how and where it was made just by scanning the tag in the shoe and handbag.

It's not just designer brands that are using NFC in this way either, eBay has also started NFC technology to help create a communication channel between buyer and seller, helping to ensure authenticity and lower the number of counterfeit cases that are reported each year.  

Using NFC in Clothing and Accessories

The use of NFC technology in clothing and accessories can be an effective way to combat counterfeiting. By embedding NFC tags into clothing, consumers can quickly and easily verify the authenticity of a product by scanning the tag with their smartphone. This can be particularly beneficial in the fashion industry, where counterfeit products are a common problem. By using NFC technology, consumers can have confidence in the authenticity of a product, and businesses can protect their brand and reputation.

eBay has taken this a step further by developing a new system in which sellers have to have the items they wish to sell properly authenticated and tagged by a team of professionals. If verified, these professionals will place an authentication NFC tag on the item in which the seller can then send to the buyer. This provides the buyer with reassurance that what they have bid on is a legitimate item that is worth the money they are spending.

Seritag have a wide range of NFC tags that are made for garment purposes. We have hard disc tags which are extremely durable and able to withstand high temperature industrial washing processes. We also have garment spec labels made out of clear PET plastic, making them thin and flexible allowing for seamless integration into clothing. 

Using NFC in Beauty and Perfume

In 2019, the global cosmetic product market was valued at $532.43 billion US dollars and forecast to reach $805.61 billion US dollars by 2023. However, the beauty and perfume industry is also susceptible to counterfeiting. NFC technology can be used to combat this issue by embedding NFC tags into products, allowing for easy verification of authenticity. Additionally, NFC tags can be used to provide consumers with additional information about a product, such as ingredients or instructions for use. This not only helps to combat counterfeiting but also enhances the customer experience.

One company, Neanderthal Perfume, have started to place NFCs inside their perfume bottles so that consumers can scan them to get a unique number that should also be displayed on the bottle, helping to prove that the perfume is authentic. If these tags are moved to other bottles, the numbers will not match and this will alert the consumer before they part with their money.

Smart protection released a study that they conducted in 2022 regarding the cosmetic industry. They found that 41.5% of consumers who had been duped into purchasing fake cosmetics acknowledged that they would stop buying from that brand. 32% would stop interacting with the brands social media and 26.18% would lose trust in discounted promotions from that brand. Beauty product manufacturers such as L’Oréal, Unilever, The Estée Lauder Cos. and Procter and Gamble Co. would be making plans to combatting this issue and keep consumer confidence. 

The same year the research study was made, two of Estee Lauders’ companies released items with NFC tags. In April Clinique dropped their first NFC-enabled beauty pack for their limited edition moisturiser (Cosmetics business). The cosmetics brand Too faced released a statement in July that they have added NFC tags to 100,000 samples of its maximum plump lip gloss (NFC world). 

Using NFC in Toys

Counterfeit toys can pose a significant risk to children, as they may not meet safety standards or contain harmful materials. Many big-name toy production companies have been made aware of incidents where items have been made with flammable materials or components that pose a choking risk while being sold as genuine when they are not.

NFC technology can be used to combat this issue by embedding NFC tags into toys, allowing for easy verification of authenticity. In addition, NFC tags can be used to provide additional information about a toy, such as age recommendations or usage instructions. This not only helps to combat counterfeiting but also improves the safety of children's products, giving parents the peace of mind they need when they are buying items for kids.

This method of authentication has not however been implemented as the integration of these items into toys needs to follow strict guidelines for children’s safety. This is not the same for collectables, Cryptokitty a blockchain based NFT collection have released 19cm physical toys. Each item has a unique identifier and are traceable on the blockchain. A tamper-proof NFC tag with a unique serial number is placed under the toy’s foot. Owners can interact with the chip to access details about their toys unique characteristics. This was created in attempt to allow owners of NFTs to connect the digital world with the physical. 

NFC Tags Provide Trust

In conclusion, NFC anti-counterfeit technology is a powerful tool in the fight against counterfeiting in the consumer goods industry. This is a vital step forward as the current issue with counterfeiting has left many consumers feeling wary and losing trust in the system they have been using. 

By embedding NFC tags into products, businesses can protect their brand and reputation, while consumers can have confidence in the authenticity of a product, helping everyone to develop greater levels of trust at every step of the supply chain. Look out for NFC authentication tags the next time you are purchasing something and enjoy the feeling of enhanced consumer trust once again.