We get used to advanced technology in our 21st century lives, and so barely notice, sometimes, the amazing ways our science can combine with some of the most ancient crafts. So I thought as I read a piece today in a favorite advanced-tech web site AZ Nanotechnology. It had to do with wool. No, not a space-born NASA super-fabric. Wool.
For more than a thousand years, wool has been the lifeblood of the the Pennines hills in the north west of England. The gritty soil of the Pennines cannot grow crops and the grass that struggles to life is too sparse for cattle. But sheep have thrived, and the fine wool of the area spinners became the envy of the world.
Protecting a venerable product
In the 8th century, AD, the Emperor Charlemagne of France insisted that his cloaks be made of wool from the north of England, a hair-raising trip in those times.
By the 18th century, the new worsted cloths, with their long, fine fibers, were a critical British export, spun largely in the area around Yorkshire. Today, it’s no wonder that textile counterfeiters from around the world would love to fake that fine fabric.
Now Applied DNA Sciences is using an anti-counterfeiting technology backed by nine yards or so of patented research, to protect the venerable product with encrypted botanical DNA.
Protecting the Supply Chain
With a new lab and ongoing partnership at the Yorkshire-based Textile Centre of Excellence, Applied is full into its “DNA in Textiles” program to protect the provenance of the area’s wool and its supply chain.
Last July, Applied unveiled its first series of "DNA Suits" made in Yorkshire, UK. Each DNA suit was custom-made from the finest woolen yarn, then woven and finished into a pinstripe fabric, and assembled by a master tailor. You can wash the product as much as you like, but the DNA stays put for longer than the wearer probably wants to think about it, providing a definitive means to match the DNA mark to the bespoke suit. (Psst, counterfeiters…the DNA is in the pinstripe. Go for it.)
Wanted: an unbreakable anti-counterfeiting technology
It’s not that other technologies haven’t been tried. A formidable list of anti-counterfeiting measures have been applied in the textile industry: holograms and other famous hard-to-copy trademarks, heat transfer labels, invisible inks, unique thread and merchandise-tracking technology have all given it a go. What counterfeiter could beat this dream-team line-up? The answer: plenty of them. Some “fake-proof” labels have been duplicated in a matter of hours after they appear on the market. Others do not lend themselves to the regular audits that are needed for supply chain security.
Only SigNature DNA, the Applied product, cannot be broken. It is uncopyable.
Beyond that, real anti-counterfeiting measures demand a program, not just a wave of the scientific wand. It is that program which Applied and the Centre are now embarked.
Recently, the exclusive Leeds, UK, tailor, James Michelsberg , had a line of his bespoke suits treated with SigNature DNA. The fibers for the cloth used to make the suit were immersed in SigNature DNA as they were put on the loom, before the fabric was finished. His suits now boast a unique "fingerprint" to prove their authenticity.
Applied DNA Sciences (APDN) was front and center last week at the The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo Americas 2012 conference in Boston (http://www.ifai.com/events/item/36) Over 7,000 companies and individuals participated in the three day conference and expo to celebrate IFAI's 100th Anniversary. APDN exhibited in the Advanced Textiles Pavilion and was a featured speaker at one of the breakout sessions on Wednesday afternoon. Dr. Karim Berrada, Director of DNA Formulation, spoke about DNA based authentication of textiles using exogenous and endogenous markers. Karim detailed how 21st century technology has come to textile authentication.
A highlight of the show was the announcement of the IFAI 2012 ShowStoppers awards (http://www.ifai.com/posts/274) for the best of the best new products at the expo. IFAI received a total of 84 entries from 4 countries that were submitted by 56 companies in this year's competition. IFAI noted that the winners exhibited the newest; coolest; the most pragmatic and the most innovative; the most effective and the most efficient; the most economical and the most environmentally sound. Winners were chosen by their industry peers in attendance and exhibiting at IFAI Expo 2012. ShowStoppers entries were displayed on the show floor in exhibitors' booths and highlighted in a prominent voting display.
APDN was the proud recipient of a ShowStopper Award in the "End Products and Services" category, a rare honor for a first time expo participant. Tom Gladtke, Director of Sales at APDN noted, "We entered our product into the showstopper competition because we believe it us just that, a show stopper. A unique, one of a kind solution, that utilizes bio technology and DNA as a forensic taggant in a way no one else does. We were very excited about winning the award, especially since show attendees voted and recognized the significance of our cutting edge authentication platform."
According to a recent story in Bicycling Retailer, investigators in Colorado have arrested four Denver residents and charged them with selling $200,000 worth of counterfeit cycling jerseys and bike components on eBay over the past four years. Hiigh-tech bike textiles and components were seized by federal agents.
The indictments against brothers Piotr Abramczyk and Pawel Abramczyk, and Donatas Juodzevicius, include computer crime, filing false tax returns and trademark counterfeiting for allegedly selling counterfeit cycling jerseys and components. (Piotr’s wife, Sally Sogue, was indicted for filing false tax returns.)
At the time of the arrests, federal investigators seized Specialized biking apparel using INVISTA’s Coolmax fabric trademarks, carbon fiber handlebars and counterfeit Mavic 5-spoke 10 carbon wheels with a retail value of more than $285,000. INVISTA is one of the world’s largest integrated producers of polymers and fibers, primarily for nylon, spandex and polyester applications, and licenses its product to some of the most influential names in the apparel industry, including Specialized.
It’s interesting to note how multiple agencies were used to bring this counterfeiting ring down. Personnel from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, the Colorado Department of Revenue, Specialized, INVISTA, eBay and PayPal combined to identify the counterfeiters.
“Our Homeland Security Investigations counterfeit and cyber enforcement operations play an important role in protecting U.S. trademarks, especially when we team up with other agencies,” said Kumar C. Kibble, the special agent in charge of the investigation, in the article. “Enforcing U.S. trademarks helps protect U.S. jobs while also protecting consumers from inferior merchandise.”