Our economy has been impacted to the tune of $1.3 billion in 2015 alone by a steady flood of imported counterfeit goods, about 90% produced in China, where international trademark protections simply don’t exist. Common knock-off products seized by U.S. Customs range from apparel with fake name-brand labels, at quality far below their authentic counterparts, to fake electronics and auto parts, which may be flat-out dangerous. Manufacturers initially used holographic labels and other visual distinctions to authenticate their genuine merchandise against knock-offs, but even passable facsimile holograms can eventually be created by a determined imitator. A stronger deterrent against product counterfeiting is rapidly emerging: RFID tagging. 
Smaller RFID Tag Sizes, Bigger Results
Tiny RFID tags encoded with a scannable Electronic Product Code (EPC) can now be permanently embedded into apparel products, even woven into textiles, to clearly identify real items against the fakes. An individualized EPC represents a hidden digital fingerprint the counterfeiters just can’t replicate. Designer brand Fendi was one of the first high-end brands to introduce RFID tagging as part of their product authentication. Luxury outerwear maker Moncler now includes RFID tagging into their products, which the consumer can verify for themselves via a smartphone app. After a similar introduction of RFID microchips into their high-end shoes and leather products, fashion brand Salvatore Ferragamo successfully thwarted almost 25,000 China-replicated products from reaching the open market. 
We recently saw a very interesting presentation for the SHIELD Project of Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), another leading-edge RFID anti-counterfeiting application designed to protect government agencies from purchasing bogus or used electronics components. DARPA plans to work with contractors to develop an embedded RFID chip about the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny. The goals of the program include the chip’s ability to detect and record telltale data such as extreme temperature changes, which typically occur during a remanufacturing process. 
With so few other viable countermeasures to stem the rising tide of foreign product counterfeiting, analysts consider the future of RFID tagging to be bright. Visiongate expects RFID innovations to propel the anti-counterfeit packaging market to generate over $18 billion in global revenue in 2016,while a 2015 report released by Intense Research predicts the market for similar anti-counterfeiting products for the electronics/auto industry alone to swell to $24.2 billion by 2020. 
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