Overt Security Elements in Brand Protection Labels

By The Label Printers

Overt Security Elements in Brand Protection Labels

In part 1 of our series on brand protection labels, we wrote about how your brand is one of your business’s most valuable assets – if not the most valuable asset. We talked about how negative perceptions of your brand can damage the trust you’ve carefully nurtured among customers and potential customers, and we covered the many circumstances that call for an investment in brand protection measures.

The takeaway: Brand protection is a proactive strategy that can limit reputation-destroying factors such as counterfeiting and product tampering before they spiral out of control.

In today’s post, part II of our series, we’ll start getting down to specifics.

As we pointed out in part 1, there are two general types of brand protection: covert and overt security elements.

Covert features (as their name implies) are meant to be undetectable to counterfeiters and others who would misuse your brand. Covert product markings require training and expertise to identify. Hence, covert brand protection renders products very difficult to replicate with 100% accuracy.

Overt security features are the opposite; they are evident to everyone, but are difficult to copy authentically, especially if multiple security elements are used. Thus, overt brand protection both discourages counterfeiters and helps consumers and retailers identify genuine products.

To give you a better idea of what we mean, here are some of the most common – and effective – overt security elements used in brand protection labels:

Holography and OVDs

The first thing people think of when they think of brand protection labels is holography. Holograms are actually one member of a broader category of optically variable devices (OVDs).

Optically variable devices can be found on credit cards, currency, and identification cards, as well as product labels. In addition to holography, OVDs may employ lens effects, diffraction, and other visual tricks to create shifting colors and the illusion of motion.

These features are instantly recognizable but extremely hard to replicate without expensive and intricate printing technology. Some counterfeiters can copy the basic outward appearance of some OVDs, but the fine details and unique identifiers remain elusive.

Color-Shifting Ink

Got a 50-dollar bill in your pocket? Take it out and move it around. You’ll notice the number “50” looks copper from one angle and green from another. You’re witnessing color-shifting ink in action.

Color-shifting ink effects are challenging to reproduce. Typically, only reputable label printers have access to this type of ink.

Serial Numbers and Codes

Serial numbers may look like meaningless strings of digits, but to manufacturers, retailers, and in-the-know consumers, serial numbers speak volumes. Serial numbers and other codes found on labels and tucked discreetly into hidden corners of products and packaging can trace a product back to its manufacturing location, shift, and even operator.

Serial numbers are invaluable for ascertaining the warranty status of a product and determining the source of manufacturing defects.


Almost every product has a barcode somewhere on its packaging. Most consumers look right past them, but barcodes can contain useful information for product identification. The ubiquitous “zebra stripe” one-dimensional barcode translates into a 12-digit number, but newer two-dimensional barcodes can carry so much more data.

QR (quick response) codes, for example, can contain up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters or 7,089 numeric characters. This is more than enough space to encode highly detailed information about a product, its components, and its source.

Barcode technology can be combined with writable databases to create track-and-trace systems that follow products throughout their supply chain, from factory to end-user (thwarting diversion into the gray market).

Coming Up: Covert Brand Protection Labels

Security labels are always evolving as improved technology for protecting the integrity of brands emerges. Contact an expert label printer to learn more about the latest brand protection options. And watch this space for part 3 in our series, in which we’ll delve into the unseen world of covert brand protection.

Download our FREE Label Buying Guide

Tags: Security Labels, Product Labels