German toy start-up adds authentication to building blocks

German firm Sunny Hills has turned to near-field communication (NFC) to protect its Lini Cube construction toy from counterfeiting.

The recently-launched toy - which is making a play to muscle in on LEGO's territory - is playing on the benefit of being able to join Lini cubes together on any side so you can build in any direction. There are 105 different ways you can plug one Lini cube into another, which is 11 times more than other interlocking building blocks.

The toy's designer and Sunny Hills founder, Daniel Stead, has now reached an agreement with Belgian anti-counterfeit specialist Selinko and NXP Semiconductors to integrate NFC chips into packs of the bricks. The chips can be read with the help of Selinko's software platform and mobile application.

The encrypted NFC tag allows users to do a quick authentication check with a smartphone and get product related information.

Each box containing 81 cubes is being offered for sale at €197 ($220) - a price that could be tempting for counterfeiters seeking to peddle cheap copies of the brand. In addition to giving each pack a unique identity with the NFC chip, Lini cubes has also incorporated a covert feature that allows each brick to be scanned to determine its authenticity.

"We want to protect our customers and ourselves from counterfeit products," said the company. "In order to do that, we pioneered with a company that also equips the euro bill with copy protection."

"We are proud to be the first in the toy industry to integrate a sophisticated invisible plagiarism protection right into the material of every single cube."

Toys are currently the sixth most frequently faked product category, with almost one in ten toys in Europe being a counterfeit, said Selinko.

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