British Customs Officials Go High Tech to Spot Fakes


Is that a real Mulberry?  Britain’s forthcoming terahertz spectroscopy will tell you.

A new technology to recognize counterfeit luxury goods is in development, and when it launches, it could make sneaking fakes through customs literally impossible.  The UK’s National Physical Laboratory is working on terahertz time-domain spectroscopy, which spots differences in products that are otherwise impossible for the human eye to recognize.

The mouthful of a name is the fancy way of saying “radiation beam,” which would be used to create profiles of particular materials used by the country’s luxury brands.  If the beam is scanned over suspected counterfeits and reacts differently than it did to the real thing, customs officials can confirm they’ve found a fake.  Terahertz spectroscopy is a fast way to see differences in fabrics that would be invisible to an official’s sight and touch.

What this won’t work on are the back-of-the-truck models made from the real thing, with extra material lying around original factories.  On the other hand, with Britain still in the throes of austerity, it won’t hurt to crack down on an industry that costs the country’s economy around $540 billion a year.  Now, of course, who gets in trouble when caught with the fakes — the seller or the buyer?  Or both?