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Watermark: helps track down infringement and improve recycling process

Watermark in product: smart technology helps track down infringements and improve recycling process

The nice thing about our job is that we are constantly introduced to new ideas that help turn the world around us into a better place. For example FiliGrade, a Twello-based company, has developed a cost-effective way of applying a 'watermark' to a product.

Among other things this can help recycling companies recognise the type of plastic they are dealing with. A related process is used to distinguish original products from fake ones.

Clearer recognition, better recycling

Plastic packaging is collected on a large scale. However, its recycling is still a tremendous challenge. In order to be able to recycle plastic we have to be able to sort it. The technology that is currently being used to do so, which generally consists of a combination of optical recognition and mechanical techniques such as sink-float separation and centrifuges, does not suffice. Around 45% of the plastic waste collected ends up as a low-grade 'plastics mixture'.

The technology developed by FiliGrade works on the basis of a mould that is assigned a code on a one-off basis. Every time that mould is used to produce a plastic part it leaves a watermark on the product. This watermark makes it easier for recycling companies to determine exactly what kind of plastic they are dealing with. With the help of the FiliGrade technology a much bigger proportion of the plastic handed in can ultimately be reused as a raw material, which means less new plastic is needed. And that is good news for our planet.

Track down infringement using your phone

More than anything the 'watermark' applied to plastic packaging has to be clearly recognisable so that it is still legible when the plastic is dirty, screwed up or damaged. It did not take long for the company to come up with the idea that, with a few minor adaptations, this concept could also be used to distinguish genuine products from fake ones. Applying the watermark to products in a concealed place makes it possible to distinguish genuine from fake products. That is because the watermark will not be lost during a copying process. By making a scan using an app on a mobile phone it is then easy to establish via a control algorithm whether the product is genuine or fake. 

Partner in the field of Intellectual Property

EP&C has been a partner of FiliGrade in the area of Intellectual Property for years. We like to give advice about how to deal with confidential information, indicate where the boundaries of the technology's patentability lie and contribute ideas on the right strategy to adopt. It is really inspiring to be working together at the start of this potentially revolutionary new application. 

Prize winner and partner of AkzoNobel

We are not the only ones to think so. A year ago, FiliGrade won the AkzoNobel Imagine Chemistry Challenge with this invention. AkzoNobel organises this challenge so that it can enter into partnerships with start-ups, scale-ups and researchers that are developing innovative solutions. AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and FiliGrade are now working together on the application of watermarks to packaging made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) to improve identification and traceability, and therefore recycling and quality control.

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