Fighting Fraud and Counterfeiting in the Imaging Supplies Industry

I just returned from the 16th International Imaging Supplies Coalition Conference for Fraud and Counterfeiting in the Imaging Supplies Industry and was encouraged to see how fellow colleagues and industry professionals are taking control of illegal activities to protect their brand.

In our industry, counterfeiting losses are estimated to be over $3 billion annually worldwide. As a company, we lose revenue, profit and brand loyalty; our channel partners lose because they have to compete with illegal products at low prices and/or are sourcing products thinking they are authentic when they’re really not, and the consumers lose because they don’t get what they pay for.

OEMs invest significant money in developing products and bringing them to market. To bump up brand protection efforts, further investments are made in packaging, labeling and tracking technology, such as UPC codes, serial numbers, and other security features. All of these components serve specific purposes from quality control and management to security and anti-counterfeiting, throughout the supply chain.

Information is everywhere

Giovanni Giusti, president at Doxense, kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking keynote presentation on the new information age. He described this as a storm of accelerating economic growth, changing production processes, and a time when “information is everywhere” because of the internet and mobile devices. He said that digital disruption is here and will continue to advance the way we approach brand protection efforts.

This made me think of what we’re doing at Xerox. We recently introduced Xerox Printed Memory, a highly secure, printed label containing up to 36 bits of rewritable memory which can store up to 68 billion points of data. The labels, for example, can be used to determine if a product is genuine and to track how it’s been handled during distribution. Technologies like this will be among the key driving forces in the detection of illegal products in the market.

The conference continued with more intriguing speakers, presentations and panel discussions that helped not only paint the picture of our challenge today, but how we’re combating the fight and taking down some of the criminal masterminds plaguing our industry. Below are some of the key takeaways and observations from the conference:

  • Stay one step ahead.
  • Technology will continue to change the game in the fight against fraud and counterfeiting in the imaging supplies industry. It’s important for OEM’s and management to prepare for an era that is driven by all things digital and be on the forefront of change – adaptation is a must for survival. Big data, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing are among some of the factors that will help us drive the future of our industry.

  • Steer clear of the dark web.
  • The dark web is where many fraudulent products linger. The dark web is part of the Web that is not indexed by search engines and makes up six percent of World Wide Web content. It’s full of heavily discounted items and resources that are often fraudulent in nature and may be dangerous to consumers. Some of the biggest issues around the dark web for brand protection teams include the technical complexity of anonymizing services, separation of buyer and seller, and mobility of marketplace server hosting.

  • Social media enforcement is on the rise.
  • Take a moment to think about social media today. People are constantly on their phones and computers checking their favorite network. Even more intriguing? There are hundreds of social networks out there of which we’re not even aware. Today, more OEM’s are starting to incorporate social enforcement into their brand protection strategy as social media profiles can contain key identifying factors to pinpoint criminals.

  • Raids are happening all around the world.
  • Sometimes the profiles of the criminals may not be what you expect – a grandmother selling counterfeit items out of the comfort of her own home or a student selling fraudulent items to make a quick profit while in college, to name a few. China, Brazil and Turkey, among others, are some of the countries in which there is a lot of counterfeit and fraudulent activity involving printer cartridges, boxes and labels.

Luckily, our industry as a whole realizes we need to join together in this fight against fraud and counterfeiting to ensure products in the marketplace are authentic. And we’re doing just that by developing and extending relationships with key parties – boarder agencies, law enforcement, legal counsel, etc. – to help unify the resources needed to help take down the criminals that are capitalizing on our products.

What to do if you suspect counterfeit supplies in your supply chain

While the industry as a whole is doing a lot to combat fraud, you too can be part of the first line of deference against this illegal activity. Together we can ensure that our customers get the products they have paid for, and deserve. Key factors to keep in mind: know and trust your sources, avoid ‘too good to be true’ deals and look for security features. If you suspect fraudulent or counterfeit items in your supply chain, contact the Xerox brand protection team at or visit the Xerox Brand Protection webpage.

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