Raconteur

Fraud & Privacy 2020

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R A C O N T E U R . N E T 15 colour contrast and even micro- scopic imperfections that are all unique to that object, has been tri- alled with a UK retail chain and is currently being used by a num- ber of manufacturers in the hand- bag and accessories market. More than invisible, there's no physi- cal record left on the object at all. Surely this is a game-changer? But he too is circumspect. "When we started developing this technology, our idea was that we'd solve the global problem of what is, in effect, an entire shadow economy. And I think we're close to having that ultimate authentication tech," says Srinivasan. "But still this disincentivisa - tion of counterfeiters is mitigating what is actually a hugely compli- cated problem. This might allow a supply chain, retailer or eventu- ally a consumer to guarantee the authenticity of what they buy but ,of course, it doesn't stop counter- feits being made. Tech is one part of the puzzle." Bob Barchiesi, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, a non-profit co-founded by brands including Levi's, says tackling fashion counterfeiting may really be down to the huge task of changing mindset: make the purchase of fashion counterfeits socially unacceptable. "The fact is, while it doesn't help that fashion is not a sympa - thetic victim [not least, it might be argued, because fast fashion has seen it rebuilt on legal copying], the money generated by counter- feiting goes on to fund organised crime, terrorism, child exploita- tion," he says of what's typically regarded as a low-risk, white-col- lar crime. "That insight resonates with consumers. The challenge for luxury goods makers is that consumers generally don't know those consequences." Or, perhaps, consumers don't even care. Particular to counter- feited fashion goods is its desirabil- ity is in part predicated on its "exclu- sivity". "That means there's a lot of money to be made by people who can meet demand at a lower price point and, unfortunately for the fashion industry, copying a pharmaceuti- cal is not easy, while copying, say, a pair of Nikes is not so hard," says Dr increasing tremendously; 20 years ago there was almost no tech being used," says Dr Fred Jordan, chief executive of anti-counterfeiting technology company AlpVision. "The problem is that most tech- nology being used at the moment is tech you can see: a hologram or a scannable tag, for example. Then it just becomes a battle between the users of tech and the counterfeit- ers finding ways around it. What's crucial now is that the tech has to be effectively invisible; counter- feiters don't respond to it because they don't know it's there. It's secu- rity by obscurity." AlpVision's Cryptoglyph system prints an "invisible" and random digital image on packaging and labelling that only software can see. Users of the system, typically along the supply chain rather than end-consumers, assess whether a product is genuine using an app. How the app works, of course, is secret. Serious counterfeiters would need to become hackers. But Jordan concedes that tech is unlikely to be enough; it's more a tool for brands and their lawyers to attempt to bring prosecutions. This perhaps explains why much of the work being done to beat counterfeit - ers is more in pursuing legislation than further tech. Nike, for exam- ple, is backing draft legislation that would give US Customs the author- ity to seize goods believed to infringe TOP BR ANDS MENTIONED BY COUNTERFEITERS Analysis of nearly 700,000 Instagram posts from counterfeiters containing the hashtags or related hashtags of the following fashion brands GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images Ghost Data 2019 20% of all posts about fashion products on Instagram feature counterfeit and/or illicit products Amanda Budde-Sing of the US Air Force Academy's international man- agement department and author of a paper on Australian bootmaker UGG's long trademark battle. Tech may help keep fakes out of supply chains, which protects con- sumers who want to be confident they're buying the real deal. "But the fact is that, ultimately, it won't help fashion beat counterfeiting one tiny bit," Budde-Sing adds. "Because the vast majority of people, who buy counterfeit fashion, know they're buying a counterfeit and don't care." Her new, as yet unpublished, research suggests that a counter- feit is either a stop-gap until the consumer can afford the real deal or purchased in the belief that it's as good as the real thing, but a frac- tion of the price. Fashion brands may be bothered by supposed lost sales, but more so by the damage to their reputation as counterfeits suggest their products are not so exclusive, after all. "But they also have to accept the bottom line that if a high-end fash- ion brand isn't being counterfeited, it's because it's no longer desirable," Budde-Sing concludes. patented designs at the border, rather than having to go through a slow and, for small companies, pro- hibitively expensive trial. Yet, what if a means of assess- ing the authenticity of a product could be put in the end-consumer's hands? That's the longer-term plan for Vidyuth Srinivasan, co-founder of tech company Entrupy. Its "fingerprinting" system, which uses a proprietary optical scanner to record up to 1,200 datapoints about an object, from texture to Gucci Louis Vuitton Chanel Balenciaga Dior Fendi Prada Hermes Nike Adidas Versace Supreme Valentino Yves Saint Laurent Givenchy Off-White 16% 5% 4% 7% 5% 4% 12% 10% 5% 5% 4% 5% 7% 4% 4% 3% GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images Below: US Customs and Border Protection official examining a pair of counterfeit Christian Louboutin shoes from one of five shipments from China Ghost Data 2019

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