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Leading-Edge Cluster Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe Prevention against Product Piracy

Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project Management Agency: Karlsruhe (PTKA)

Duration: 01/2013 - 06/2017

At the C.I.K. the following doctoral thesis resulted from this project: “Systematik zum präventiven Schutz vor Produktpiraterie durch Additive Fertigungsverfahren“ by Ulrich Jahnke, 19.03.2019.

At the C.I.K. the following spin-off emerged from this project: Additive Marking GmbH.


The joint project itsowl-3P - "Prevention against Product Piracy - Protecting Innovations" was carried out within the framework of the excellence cluster Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe (it's OWL). It was a sustainability measure that helps to secure the cluster partners' research and development investments in the long term.

The products of German mechanical engineering and related sectors such as the automotive supply and electrical industries are successful worldwide, but are often the victims of imitations. While consumer goods have been particularly affected in recent years, complex high-tech and capital goods are increasingly being imitated. This threatens the market success of many companies and deprives them of the return on their investments in research and development. The consequences are usually severe: loss of sales and profits, outflow of know-how, product liability lawsuits and even personal injury caused by inferior copies.

For effective product protection, individual measures are often not sufficient. Comprehensive protection concepts are required that combine technical, organizational and legal measures and are tailored to the respective company-specific threat situation. This is where the sustainability measure itsowl-3P comes in.


Up to now, companies have tried to protect themselves from imitations with legal measures such as patents, utility models and design patents. These measures are an important prerequisite in the fight against product piracy, but they are reactive, i.e. they only take effect when the damage has already occurred. The protective effect can be substantially increased by preventive organizational and technical measures, such as labeling, "black box construction" or "self-destructive elements". These make it more difficult to copy a product and thus considerably reduce the financial attractiveness for imitation. Reasons for the rather rare use of preventive technical and organizational protective measures are a lack of knowledge about their potential, insufficient practical or serial suitability of existing protective measures and additional costs.

Research at C.I.K.

The additive manufacturing processes are developing more and more from rapid prototyping to the production of directly usable components. They offer outstanding technological and economic potentials for a variety of industries. Since the layer-by-layer manufacturing process is based on digital product data, an increased risk of product piracy is often addressed. In the sustainability measure "Prevention against product piracy", which is funded by the BMBF within the framework of the technology network "it's owl", technical measures are being developed not only to counteract this risk but even to increase protection against product piracy.

The demonstrator produced within the project combines a variety of product protection measures. What is special about them is that they only become possible and economically sensible through the use of additive manufacturing processes. The researchers achieved an inseparable identification of the demonstrator, for example by means of internal QR codes. Other product protection measures include functional integration, form-fit design, a black box construction and other product individualization.

All protective measures implemented in the demonstrator as well as other newly developed protective measures adapted for AM are summarized in a catalog, which is intended to support product developers and designers in the application and integration of measures in concrete products.

In the future, the project "Prevention of Product Piracy" aims at anchoring these protective measures in the minds of product developers and designers, so that the protection of innovations and products is already considered in the product development phase. Just like the virus scanner, which is installed as a matter of course when a PC is set up for protection against viruses, the consideration and application of technical protective measures in product development should become a matter of course and be established in the processes. They have a preventive effect and form effective protection concepts, for example through product labelling together with strategic and legal measures.

The sustainability measure itsowl-3P is part of the top cluster technology network it's OWL - Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalen Lippe.

The research and development project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework concept "Research for tomorrow's production" and is supervised by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA).

it's owl 3P

Anne Kruse, M.Sc.

Computeranwendung und Integration in Konstruktion und Planung

Anne Kruse
+49 5251 60-2296
+49 5251 60-3206

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