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Invisible patterns could thwart clothing counterfeiters

By

May 7, 2013

An example of one of the invisible patterns, viewed without and with a polarizing filter

An example of one of the invisible patterns, viewed without and with a polarizing filter

Wondering whether the $50 Armani suit you bought in that alley in Hong Kong is the genuine article? Soon, there may be a definitive way of knowing. A new system has been developed, in which designer-specific invisible patterns can be woven into fabric.

Prof. Christian Müller, at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology, started by applying a special dye to a polyethylene thread. The dye absorbs visible light, but can be seen using a polarizing filter. The idea is that each designer would have their own unique pattern that would be woven into their garments, that people such as customs officials could see using simple equipment.

That’s all very well and good, but what would stop counterfeiters from just reading and then copying those patterns? A number of different types of the dye can be used, and they can be bonded not only to polyethylene, but also to a variety of other synthetic and natural fibers. Depending on the specific combination of dye and fiber types, the optical spectrum of the pattern is different. Unless the counterfeiters knew the secret combination used, they wouldn’t be able to copy the exact look of an existing pattern – it’s not unlike the technology presently used on some banknotes.

According to Müller, it would be relatively easy and inexpensive for clothing companies to manufacture their own custom dyed threads for use in the system.

Source: Chalmers University of Technology

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
5 Comments

Guarantee they will figure out how to copy it given some time, or get it close enough that it will be very hard to tell the difference. With all the different brands out there, it will be hard for customs officers to keep up with everyone one if they all started using this.

Its a good idea and it might help for a couple years, and help in some small way after that, but counterfeiters will find a way around them. The same kinds of skilled/creative people trying to figure ways to beat counterfeiters, are also the counterfeiters themselves.

Arahant
7th May, 2013 @ 05:35 pm PDT

Given the percentage of counter fit products that come out of the authorized factories, I don't think it will make that big of a difference.

Slowburn
7th May, 2013 @ 07:56 pm PDT

This idea is not new at all. The original work was done at Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre and Xerox labs in Webster New York. 2D Bar codes can be integrated into a document repetitively such that the large scale visible text & imagery on a page can be derived from a digital pattern printed across a page but at a density just below visible for us. By repeating such a digital image a torn damaged page can fully recreate the original whole page. This idea is a great application of work done by Xerox easily thirty years ago.

Also, typical of the tiny greedy little minds mismanaging Xerox from Stamford Ct., these ideas got scant application outside of narrow printing applications.

StWils
8th May, 2013 @ 10:56 am PDT

will JC penny's use it?

science ninja
8th May, 2013 @ 11:04 am PDT

People buy counterfeit clothing because brand names are expensive. Putting an 'invisible pattern' on items will only make them a little more expensive, it won't discourage the market for counterfeit clothing. Most people who buy counterfeit items know they are counterfeit and won't care about an invisible pattern, they buy the stuff because they can't afford or are unwilling to pay for the brand but want to appear stylish.

garbage_in
8th May, 2013 @ 11:32 am PDT
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