The VR Tests
VRs are a vital component of our Anti-Counterfeit Protocol.
The secret is not "prevention" of counterfeit, but early, cheap and reliable "detection" of counterfeit products aimed at the FD market (we can reasonably assume that no sane consumer would attempt validation of a counterfeit product bought on the CC Market!)
The purpose of the VR is to render every legitimate product we wish to protect uniquely identifiable. Any prospective consumer, wholesaler, or retailer, who has any doubts about the legitimacy of the product can check its authenticity for the cost, in time and effort, of a web session.
The consumer would visit this page (or one similar) and enter the VR displayed on the product. (Manufacturers and members of the supply chain will have their own dedicated page which requires secure authentication).
To be legitimate, the product's unique id - its VR - must pass ALL the following tests:
- it must be on the Codel database
- it must be in the right place (where the database expects it to be)
- it must be there at the right time (roughly when the database expects it to be there)
- it can only be in registered once
The "right place" has two connotations. First, obviously, it can't be in two places at once. So if you're checking on it in Birmingham and someone else checked it in Hong Kong 5 minutes previously, we have detected a counterfeit. And we probably know which one, because the records will show where it should have been. If its been shipped to China, is confirmed as arriving in China and then someone checks in using the same VR from Birmingham, its not certain but it is highly probable that the fake is in Birmingham. Why?
Because the database provides a "chain of custody". Unless the fake was substituted literally just as the goods left the factory, (which is possible but hopefully rare) then we've had a succession of custodians report and confirm its movements.
In fact the chain of custody is good enough, on its own, to illuminate the counterfeit. If its been tracked all the way to Hong Kong and then pops up in Birmingham (UK), you don't even need to await the confirmation of its arrival in HK, you already have grounds for suspicion. Of course, if a shipment of 10,000 arrives in HK and is confirmed, and then a single item turns up in Birmingham , depending on the time gap, you might be interested but you probably don't care. It may well be innocent. The owner may have just flown in from HK where the item was legitimately bought. If a serious inquiry was launched, their receipt will provide sufficient evidence. Failing that , a credit card statement will do the job if necessary.
On the other hand, if a few hundred turn up in Birmingham when they're all shown as having been shipped to China, then we know we have a problem.
The "right time" refers to sensible chronological order. An item which leaves the Factory in Korea on Tuesday morning is unlikely to be legitimately on the shopfloor in New York by Tuesday afternoon. If an item normally takes 5 days to traverse the supply chain, and it starts being registered by consumers after 2 days then something is leaking!
And, of course, the fourth test covers registration at the end of the supply chain once a consumer has bought the product. Any second attempt at registration immediately sounds the alarm. Again, the chain of custody will probably point to which is the counterfeit. Of course, this won't apply if you have a single source for a hundred copies of the product with the same ID. What you can say in such a blatant case, is that it is highly likely that the counterfeiter (or at least whoever was trying to sell the fakes) will be caught very quickly.
If a VR fails any of the tests, the system immediately knows we are dealing with a counterfeit. What happens next depends on the manufacturer whose reputation is at stake. Codel merely raises the alarm.