There is a lot of interest at present in the use of technologies to thwart counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry, which is a growing problem.
According to World Health Organisation estimates, counterfeit medicines comprise 6 per cent of the world market, much higher in some areas, and include developed countries. In the US, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has seen a four-fold increase in the number of counterfeit cases brought to its attention since the mid 1990s.
A report on the website of packaging consultancy Pira notes that the unit was set up in April 2004, with staff based in the UK and Germany, but is still being finalised. It will focus on the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries as well as high-value luxury goods.
Some of Merck's pigments which could provide brand protection or security techniques include the company's pearl lustre pigments trademarked under the name Iriodin. Merck claims the effects produced by the pigments are difficult to reproduce.
The company aims to develop other brand protection techniques based on liquid crystals, pigments and other coatings which can produce effects that are tough to copy.