There is a market demand for a reliable technology that can protect branded commodities from forgery. Conventional, material-based certificates of authenticity, enhanced with comprehensive holograms, laser-engravings, RFID tags, etc., sooner or later become subjects of falsification by themselves, thus can not be considered reliable.
A brand protection technology and procedure, SmartCert is described here. It is based on contactless microprocessor chips containing authenticity certificates.
The beneficiaries of the system can be popular brand name owners, manufacturers, merchants, and consumers.
Electronic certificates of merchandise authenticity stored in microprocessor chips can be used instead of traditional material-based certificates, such as trademarks, excise stamps, safety, quality certificates, etc.
The number of articles of goods supplied with the certificates can always be under control of the goods manufacturer and brand name owner. The electronic certificate issuing and its loading into the microchip are executed under control of the PKI-based software and hardware. The microchips can not be replicated.
The electronic certificates can be verified via a portable computer, PDA, or cell phone equipped with contactless interface. Inspection software will verify authenticity of the certificate and display the electronically signed commodity description.
The proposed brand protection system (hereafter – SmartCert) can also mitigate the risks related to the sale of smuggled or stolen commodities as well as illegal tax avoidance.
Popular brand name owners interested in revenue and reputation protection from counterfeit production could benefit from SmartCert.
Consumers of certificate-protected goods could benefit from SmartCert as they gain confidence in the goods’ quality.
Merchants could benefit from SmartCert, which could protect them from the inadvertent sale of counterfeit goods to their customers.
Public bodies dealing with media and software production copyrights protection, goods’ safety, quality, and taxation could also benefit from SmartCert.
Certification Authority (CA) - an organisation that registers participants of the SmartCert community and authorises them for issuing or executing other functions with SmartCert Certificates. The participants are Manufacturers, Merchants, and Inspection Agencies.
SmartCert Passport – a microprocessor chip with contactless interface that stores SmartCert Certificates and performs the following functions:
a) Recording and storing only data, presented to the SmartCert Passport by the authorized SmartCert Security Modules via CA’s trust chain.
b) Proving the authenticity of this data to a SmartCert Reader.
c) Preventing the SmartCert Passport’s content from being feasibly cloned.
Smart Passports are physically connected with commodities they protect in the following way:
Ø A SmartCert Passport can be attached to an article of goods (e.g. a bottle of wine, a DVD movie)
Ø A SmartCert Passport can also be imbedded into a certified unit of commodity if it is an expensive article with a relatively long lifetime (e.g. SmartCert Passport can be a component of an automobile’s onboard computer).
Ø A SmartCert Passport can be attached to a wholesale unit of goods (e.g. a beef carcass)
SmartCert Certificate – an electronically signed data file stored in a SmartCert Passport. There may be several SmartCert Certificates stored in one SmartCert Passport. These certificates may vary by their content and origin. Some examples follow:
· Quality or safety certificates
· Excise stamps
· Ownership certificates
SmartCert Reader – a cell phone, or any computer with an active (powered) contactless interface, SmartCert software application, and the CA root certificates. The Reader displays certificate content and proves its authenticity.
Article - any piece of commodity supplied with a SmartCert Passport. It is indivisible (before consumption) because of its function or the way of packing. Some examples follow:
· A watch
· A bottle of perfume
· A beef carcass. In this case, a meat packaging enterprise is a consumer. The SmartCert Passport may contain a veterinary certificate.
Manufacturer - an enterprise, which produces Articles and attaches SmartCert Passports to each of them. There can be a chain of manufacturers or value-added resellers.
Merchant - a wholesaler or retailer. In some cases the merchant loads an irrevocable sale record in the smart-passport.
Consumer - a person or organisation that purchases Articles, and consumes them. The Consumer verifies SmartCert Certificates via a SmartCert reader.
· A customs
· A Food Safety Inspection
· A state pharmacological committee
· A copyrights protection agency
SmartCert Passport Issuer – an authorizes by CA manufacturer of void SmartCert passports. A SmartCert Passport issuer may also recycle the SmartCert passports.
SmartCert Security Module (SCSM) – the computer that is properly initialized by the CA and equipped with the appropriate software application and hardware security means. An SCSM may perform one or several of the following functions:
a) An SCSM enables the CA to perform their encryption key management and certificate issuing functions.
b) An SCSM enables a SmartCert Passport Issuer to issue or recycle SmartCert passports.
c) An SCSM enables Manufacturers and Inspection Agencies to control the process of SmartCert certificate issuing and loading into SmartCert Passports.
d) An SCSM enables Merchants to add sale records to SmartCert Passports.
Life Cycle Phases:
1. SmartCert Passport issuing. The SmartCert Passport Issuer manufactures SmartCert Passports and ships them to the goods Manufacturers according to the procedure imposed by CA.
2. Goods Manufacturing. The Manufacturer receives void SmartCert Passports and loads SmartCert Certificates into them during the process of goods production and packing. The Manufacturer attaches a SmartCert Passport to each Article.
3. Inspection. Inspection Agencies may add their own SmartCert Certificates into SmartCert Passports at some points of production, sale, or maintenance.
5. Disposal/Recycling. Recycling is applied only in cases when the cost of the SmartCert Passport is comparable with the cost of the Article, e.g. the Article is a can of beer. In most cases this phase is omitted and SmartCert Passports are disposed of. The disposable passports are not reusable by their design.
Considering the business practice to affix several brand names or certificates to a single article of goods, the following example is proposed to illustrate the certificate lifecycle:
1. Aromello Coffee Ltd. produces raw coffee beans packed in sacks and attaches SmartCert Passports to them. The SmartCert Passports are loaded (by means of a SCSM) with the company’s trademark SmartCert Certificates. Some of these sacks are shipped to Instant Powder Inc.
2. Instant Powder Inc. uses raw coffee beans to produce instant coffee powder packed in cans. Instant Powder Inc. is a Consumer on that phase. Instant Powder Inc. consumes raw coffee bean sacks. At the same time, it is a Manufacturer of instant coffee (cans).
Instant Powder Inc attaches a SmartCert Passport with the company’s trademark SmartCert Certificate to each coffee can. An appropriate SCSM is used for that.
Instant Powder Inc is authorized by Aromello Coffee Ltd. to add the latter’s trademark SmartCert Certificates into the coffee can’s SmartCert Passports. Aromello Coffee Ltd controls (by means of SCSM) the number of the trademarks issued.
3. International Instant Coffee Quality Association supervises each stage of instant coffee production. It adds its electronic quality SmartCert Certificate into each coffee can’s SmartCert Passport using its own SCSM.
4. A Consumer, buying a can of Instant Powder Inc coffee, assures that it is a genuine product. His/her cell phone being placed in close proximity with the can, displays all SmartCert Certificates and the goods’ description. During the sale check out procedure, the Merchant’s till places the record of sale into the coffee can’s SmartCert Passport. The record can be reversed only at the same till within a certain period of time, via appropriate sale reversal procedure.