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Smart packaging
Written by: Olena Yakobchuk

It’s time for new packaging – smart packaging. This marketing ploy is attracting more and more attention from manufacturers and is being actively transformed, which causes confusion in understanding what smart packaging is. Who owns the rights to such smart packaging? And if you decide to use it for your products, you should pay attention to certain points before making a decision.

Let’s take a look and clarify the situation.

Initially, the term “smart packaging”, “active packaging”, “interactive packaging” appeared in the early 90s, when miniature devices with the generally accepted abbreviation RFID (radio frequency identifiers) were created and built into the cardboard of group packaging of goods and cardboard of individual packaging of goods.

These devices allow you to remotely (sometimes at a distance of 10 meters or more) receive information about the product, and track the location and movement of goods using computerized systems, which made a mini-revolution in logistics and trade, as it allowed to minimize the impact of the human factor, significantly reduce costs and improve trade efficiency.

The last five years have seen a “marketing wave” of using the above terms for new objects, such as materials that can be used as packaging, and such as devices that are made using mechanical, electrical and electronic elements.

An analysis of Internet publications reveals about 3,000 patent documents and even more publications and information that use the following terms:

smart packaging

intelligent packaging

interactive packaging

active packaging

The last term is even known from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_packaging).

As a result of the preliminary patent search (Landscape search), it was revealed that these terms are used to refer to technical solutions that:

– relate to completely different and distinguishable areas and objects of engineering and technology;

– designed to perform completely different functions.

If you decide to use one of the types of smart packaging for your products, it is important to decide what functions it will perform, conduct a patent search to clarify if the market is free from monopolies on such a product and either develop your own or buy a ready-made one.

Functions of smart packages are as follows:

— control of the elapsed time since the manufacture of the goods;

— control of temperature of storage of goods;

— control of humidity inside the package;

— control of the occurence of undesirable substances in the package, for example, oxygen;

— control of physical effects on the product, for example, shock, vibration, exposure to sunlight;

— control over the use and dosage of a product, such as a drug;

— other functions.

The above functions can be implemented both with the help of materials (for example, polymer films) that have “non-standard” properties and can change their color depending on certain conditions, and with the help of devices that are placed on the package, in the package, or connect packaging and device with software.

A feature of most devices is the presence of a programmable electronic element, which implies the use of a microchip.

One of the active manufacturers of smart packaging is AUGUST FALLER.

A preliminary search and analysis of the found patent documents showed that a company called AUGUST FALLER KG has several dozens of patent documents in the field of the containers and packaging, and most of the patents are German patents for utility models. The peak of patents fell on the 90s of the 20th century, and starting from 2000, the company has very few patents and applications – and the objects in these documents do not have any features that would give reason to classify the object as a “smart package”.

Thus, the main patents that protected the principle of smart packaging and gave the greatest monopoly might have already expired. Now thre is a room for patents for specific solutions.

Therefore, when entering the market with such packaging and before conducting a patent search and determining patent freedom on the market, it is important to determine a specific solution with clear functions and specification of the basic content.

The features are already listed above. Basic content may include:

  • A monitor or other device in the package itself,
  • Smart paints or other condition indicators,
  • Communication with the consumer’s device
  • Their combinations

Having narrowed the task, it is already possible to conduct a patent search to determine the main developments in this direction, the main competitors for the next 5 years (it is known that global companies close their product with a patent before launching it on the market), find a free niche in the region of interest and occupy it. A company can do this by purchasing a ready-made development, or by creating its own. The main thing is that this package should be patent-free.

We welcome your questions and comments. Our experience allows us to answer very many difficult questions.

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