Startup Backed by Kodak, Alibaba Fights Fakes With Invisible Ink

Startup Backed by Kodak, Alibaba Fights Fakes With Invisible Ink

The film cameras that built Eastman Kodak Co. in 1888 are long gone, yet the company’s imprint may soon be embedded on products from shoes to cigarettes.

Kodak, supplying hundreds of patents, research and history, is behind a startup working to combat counterfeiting with a technology that places an invisible, digitally traceable marker on products to ensure they are authentic.

The new company, eApeiron, whose name comes from the Greek word for everlasting, launched last month and is targeting e-commerce. Globally, fake and pirated products accounted for almost a half-trillion dollars in 2013, according to a report this year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with 84 percent of seized goods originating in China and Hong Kong. Besides losses and brand erosion for companies, counterfeiting can result in lost tax revenue for governments and it discourages innovation.

“Everyone knows this is a problem,” said Kodak Chief Executive Officer Jeff Clarke, who cited the complex supply chains at many companies. “If you’re in charge of brand protection or you’re a security officer of a major brand, this means you’ve got a new tool.”

Miami-based eApeiron, which is pronounced e-uh-PEER-on, will locate its research, engineering and manufacturing operations within Kodak’s business park in Rochester, New York. Some research will also occur in labs in Shanghai and Tel Aviv. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., owner of China’s largest e-commerce company, is an investor and President Michael Evans will sit on eApeiron’s board along with Clarke, according to the company’s website.