Rob Warren, managing director of South Auckland-based Adhesif Print Ltd, says brand theft is now so sophisticated that it is set to become the fastest-growing sector of commercial piracy.
"Brand theft is far more than a company passing off someone else's product as its own. It amounts to the theft of a company's commercial reputation, integrity and values, sometimes with disastrous consequences," he says.
"Generally, brand theft encompasses illegal copying of logos and branding, usually by the production of look-alike labels which are virtually impossible for distributors and consumers to spot.
"The cost to a legitimate manufacturer or distributor of an inferior and possibly dangerous pirated product bearing its brand name and finding its way to consumers is huge."
Warren says product-tampering used to be the main fear - 25 years ago an international drug company was forced to make its packaging tamper-proof after some of its capsules were laced with cyanide, leading to the deaths of seven people.
"Today the serious problem is not so much product-tampering but out-and-out brand theft where products sold under household labels are not what they purport to be.
"Product diversion and counterfeiting are not simply major problems for drug companies but are a threat to all companies in the marketplace."
Warren says companies which fail to take measures to protect their brands against theft expose themselves to costly lawsuits, especially in litigation-prone United States, and to trade bans.
"With so much at stake, it's no surprise that theft-guarded labelling is becoming so popular. The aim should be that any label should be hard to duplicate."
Warren says his three Gallus printing machines - the only ones of their kind in New Zealand - enable him to incorporate up to 13 label "protections", making brand theft virtually impossible.
"The essence of brand-label protection is to provide simple and prompt brand authentication to enable manufacturers and distributors to remove phoney products from the market as soon as possible."
Warren says research shows that a product label is the most constant point of contact a manufacturer or distributor shares with its customers. Anything that damages the integrity of that label damages the integrity of the product.
Adhesif Print Ltd, founded in 1981, is a leading self-adhesive label and label-applicator machinery manufacturer in Australasia. It has plants in East Tamaki, Auckland, and Sydney operating 24 hours a day. It works with Gallus of Switzerland, using innovation skills and experience to produce what it describes as the world's best labels.