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Invention of the Year can beat print fraud

A COLOUR printing technique that could stop fraudulent copying of credit cards, passports and concert tickets was yesterday named Invention of the Year at the first event devoted entirely to British inventing talent, writes Susan Watts.

Mark Jennings, 42, began work on his new process about four years ago, after being forced to leave the police through ill health. He has no printing experience, but worked on the technique in his garage, experimenting with basic chemistry.

The technique involves a mixture of inks and chemicals which Mr Jennings is keeping secret. This is used to create pictures or signatures inside clear laminated plastic, where the ink never dries. The transparent documents cannot be photocopied or scanned because the light from these machines shows a double image which shows the document up as a copy.

But perhaps the most promising aspect of the technique involves a process by which Mr Jennings pre-programmes his coloured documents to 'self-destruct'. He uses finely-tuned temperature control during production to set the ink to 'bleed' across the surface.

This hidden time bomb can be set to go off at a week, a month or a year after printing - say on the day of a concert or football match. Illegal copies of tickets would not be defaced in the same way.

The idea, which has been welcomed by police forces and printing experts, has cost Mr Jennings pounds 100,000 to develop. He says he is now 'completely broke' and even had to borrow pounds 150 to attend the Birmingham fair where he received yesterday's award.