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Alibaba and Kodak team up to fight fakes

Alibaba and Kodak have teamed up in a new business venture using high technology to fight fake goods being traded online.

The cameras and film that helped build the Eastman Kodak empire, launched in 1888, are long gone, but the company has found new life authenticating products.

With a history of research and hundreds of patents, Kodak is behind a startup working to combat counterfeiting with a technology that places an invisible, digitally traceable marker on products to ensure they are authentic.

Targeting eCommerce, the new company is named eApeiron, which comes from the Greek word for everlasting.

Fake and pirated products globally accounted for almost a half-trillion dollars in 2013, according to a report this year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with 84 per cent of seized goods originating in China and Hong Kong. As well as losses and brand erosion for companies, counterfeiting can mean lost tax revenue for governments. It also discourages innovation.

“If you’re in charge of brand protection or you’re a security officer of a major brand, this means you have a new tool,” says Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke.

Miami-based eApeiron will set up its research, engineering and manufacturing arms within Kodak’s business park in Rochester, New York. Some research will also take place in Shanghai and Tel Aviv.

With China’s largest eCommerce company Alibaba Group an investor, its president Michael Evans will sit on eApeiron’s board along with Clarke. Its CEO is Charles Fernandez.

Invisible ink

Meanwhile, invisible-ink security products are already available, including VerifyMe, which signed a memo of understanding in May with HP’s Israel-based Indigo division, part of its HP Graphics business.

One of VerifyMe’s anti-counterfeiting pigment technologies lets consumers see visible markings on a product while manufacturers can use devices to see invisible markings to support their supply and distribution-chain security.

YPB Group in Australia makes scannable markers that are invisible to the eye because they blend into the material of the product they are marking.

While luxury-goods companies are often targeted by counterfeiters, the OECD report says there are also potentially dangerous faked goods such as drugs, toys and spare parts. Tracing these items through the supply chain could ensure they are not expired or forgeries, Clarke says.

Beaten by the digital revolution, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, emerging the following year as a commercial printing business. Kodak has continued to team with young companies on technology research, and its labs have more than 50 scientists and 4000 patents.

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