Chemical Markers protect against product piracy

Chemical markers clearly identify the origin of industrial products and are a proven means against pirated goods. They are turning out to be a key invisible technology.


German engineering sets the bar around the world for quality and functionality. However, even counterfeiters are using modern technology. For a long time now, whole machines, components and replacement parts have been copied, bypassing the need for decades of development. Plagiarism is estimated to cost German engineers around eight billion euros a year. What’s more, product piracy threatens consumers’ health in the case of food or medicines. What could be safer, then, than the inextricable link between identifying characteristics and product raw materials?

This is precisely where chemical markers help. There are three varieties:

  • Enrichment of the chemical substance of the product
  • Identification using fluorescent substances
  • Arrangement of chemical elements as a sort of binary code

Marker technologies are developing quickly. They are being used at an individual level in smaller and smaller, and increasingly sensitive products; they can store several megabytes of information. So, products are clearly identifiable and can be traced to end users. Using this technology, Bayer is financing the trial of chemical markers in pill capsules. Chinese researchers have recently succeeded in placing polymer-based QR codes in tablets that can be read with a mobile. Chemcubed is developing chemical markers for 3D printers, meaning intellectual property can be protected in a company where production processes have been democratised.

In the future, chemical markers could become one of the key technologies for maintaining block-chain contracts or monitoring product standards. Using an electrical impulse, the shape of the material can be altered so that its functionality is restricted. This means consumer goods can lose their benefits or a production line can come to a standstill as soon as an unidentified component is introduced into the chain. Counterfeiting can be prevented during the manufacturing stage, and any contamination can always be traced. 

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