Kodak, Alibaba back new anti-counterfeit firm eApeiron

A new scientific e-commerce solutions firm, featuring a unique anti-counterfeiting tagging system, has been launched with backing from Eastman Kodak Company and Alibaba Group.

eApeiron, headquartered in Miami, Florida, USA, will aim to "revolutionise" e-commerce solutions through scientific research and technology development. The firm has a suite of technologies including a sophisticated tagging system offering a unique signature profile for identifying and tracking products throughout the supply chain.

The firm was created from certain assets of Kodak, primarily imaging technologies and material science, in addition to an investment from Alibaba Group. Research, engineering and manufacturing operations will be located within Kodak's Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, and the two companies have also agreed to a long-term research partnership with Kodak's research labs.

"We are excited to introduce eApeiron to the world," said Charles Fernandez, founder, chairman and chief executive of the firm. "Utilising Kodak's invaluable assets, talent and over 100 years of leadership in materials science and imaging technology expertise, eApeiron will be a game-changer for the e-commerce industry."

Kodak's chief executive Jeff Clarke will serve as the new company's vice chairman. He said: "With its vision, mission and proven assets, we are confident that eApeiron will bring innovative and compelling solutions that sit on the cutting edge of technology, and will break through some of the toughest and most complex challenges faced by e-commerce companies today worldwide."

Online shopping sites, such as Amazon and Alibaba, have come into criticism lately over the selling of counterfeit brands and the lack of action to address the problem. Just this month, footwear brand Birkenstock pulled its products from Amazon, claiming the retailer was not doing enough to halt sales of fakes.

eApeiron hopes to provide a solution to the online counterfeit problem. Its technology uses an invisible, digitally traceable marker on products to ensure authenticity, and is based on the Traceless ink technology developed by Kodak-acquired firm Creo. The ink can be scanned at any point along the supply chain to track the product journey.

"The technology is highly confidential but basically it will provide smart tracking for brands. It requires being seen by very specific scanners and uses specific software components," Fernandez told PrintWeek. "It allows someone to determine where something was made, where it was supposed to go and where it is right now. It’s like encrypted GPS."

The tags, which can be used on any type of product, would be added during the production process, with scanners used by distributors. Fernandez said eventually retailers would also use a scanner to verify the products.

Commentators say it is the technology that attracted Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to invest in eApeiron, in a move designed to quell critics who believe the company is not serious on stamping out counterfeit activity.

The investment by Alibaba is also good news for eApeiron as it will mean access to around eight million product vendors with an interest in the anti-counterfeiting technology.

The start-up has also partnered with un-named large pharmaceutical, tobacco, spirit and fashion firms, with as many as 12 major companies already installing eApeiron’s technology.

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