Willcox & Gibbs has established adivision that will offer the sewn products industry a “cafeteria” of productsdesigned to combat counterfeiting and diversion of merchandise.

The new Anti-Counterfeiting & DiversionSolutions Division, led by industry veteran Mahlon Saibel, president, is targeting aproblem that has become increasingly serious for firms that market major apparel brandsand licensed sewn products goods. Indeed, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition(IACC) estimates that the worldwide market for counterfeit goods is $250 billion, and theInternational Trademark Association reports that up to 22 percent of all apparel andfootwear sold worldwide is counterfeit.

Among the products the Willcox & Gibbsdivision is offering to fight the problem are a microscopic powder and an invisible ink,both of which create hidden markings that can be used to identify genuine apparel.

The powder – called Microtaggant™ andoriginally developed for the explosives industry by Minneapolis, MN-based MicroTrace Inc.- can be screenprinted or heat transferred onto a specific location on a garment or label.Only a tiny sprinkling of the powder needs to be applied, and when viewed under highmagnification, it will reveal a color-coded bar code registered to the apparel firm.

Likewise, the invisible ink – manufacturedby Biocode – can be used to track down those guilty of diverting branded or licensedmerchandise into unauthorized distribution channels. Willcox & Gibbs is working withMatthews International to provide continuous ink jet printers for use in applying the ink.The invisible ink can be applied directly to a specific location on garments withinformation that can be specific to certain distributors or contractors).

Upon finding their merchandise in anunauthorized distribution channel, manufacturers can spray the appropriate section oftheir garment with another covert chemical from Biocode to reveal the marking, anddetermine which of its distributors or contractors was responsible for channeling themerchandise. When sprayed with water, the mark disappears, returning the item tofirst-quality condition.

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The Willcox & Gibbs division, which isthe exclusive sewn products industry distributor for the MicroTrace and Biocode products,is pursuing partnerships with leading label suppliers to incorporate some of theanti-counterfeiting devices into labels.

Saibel said he hopes the availability ofindustry-specific solutions will inspire more firms to take a proactive stance inreducing, if not stopping, the problem. He also emphasized that manufacturers shouldcollaborate with each other to combat counterfeiting and diversion.

Barbara Kolsum, chairperson of the200-member IACC and assistant general counsel for WestPoint Stevens, couldn’t agreemore. “Work with your competition,” she asserted. “They may be yourcompetition in the marketplace, but they’re not your competition in the fight againstthe bad guy.”

For more information about the new Willcox& Gibbs division, Saibel may be reached at tel.: 609-795-5624; fax: 609-354-9763. Formore information about the IACC, call 202-223-5728.

Kathleen DesMarteau and Olga G. West