As my readers know by now, Codentify is the tracking and tracing system proposed by the tobacco industry as the solution for governments to meet their obligations under Article 8 of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products when it will enter into force.
The Codentify system was developed and patented, and the trademark registered, by Philip Morris International in 2006. To promote the system as an “industry standard,” the four major tobacco multinationals, PMI, BAT, JTI and Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) created in 2011 the Digital Coding and Tracking Association (DCTA), based in Zurich, Switzerland.
Codentify has been criticized for the inadequacy of its technology with the requirements of the IT Protocol. Furthermore, the role of the tobacco industry in controlling and promoting this system raises serious concern, notably because the past and current record of the tobacco companies’ involvement in illicit trade of tobacco products, and with respect to Article 5.3 of the FCTC which requires that the tobacco industry be kept at arm’s length of governmental decisions. In their 2013 paper, Joossens and Gilmore indicated that the tobacco industry had devised a strategy to circumvent this concern by licensing the Codentify technology “to ‘credible’ third party providers who would in turn promote Codentify on their behalf.”
Last June the system was sold off to a so called “third party. The DCTA announced in a press release that its four members had signed and completed an agreement “by which Inexto, an affiliate of the French Group Impala, has acquired the DCTA’s track & trace and product authentication technology,” adding that “a specialized and independent technology company is now best placed to further develop this technology.”
I initially helped break the story in June of 2016 in an EU Observer article on the subject of the sale.
Since then I also indicated based on my sources that the Codentify product will be broken up and re-branded which is since evident in this latest Inexto/Codentify brochure which today makes no mention of Codentify or their tobacco industry past. The above mentioned brochure has since been removed from the web.
Since the publishing of this article the above mentioned presentation has been removed. Today the link appears below with a 404 error.
How independent is this new company? Its statutes are completely anonymous and offer no clue to answer this question. They simply indicate that the company maintains a list of owners which can be “accessed at any time in Switzerland.”
What we do know is a number of their key leadership roles are filled by the creators of Codentify back in PMI. This is a topic I have covered heavily in the past.
Inexto’s head office is located at avenue Edouard-Dapples 7 in Lausanne, not far from PMI’s headquarters. Interestingly, this address does not correspond to an office building but to a residential apartment building, with about 15 occupants.
After some web-searching of all building resident, none of the tenants had the profile to host the new company, except perhaps one…
Sylviane Marguerat Jendly, who is … Manager Procurement Switzerland at PMI.
Below is her address listing publicly available on the internet.
Perhaps Marguerat, was the one to suggest to Inexto a convenient and discrete office space just blocks from PMI’s offices.
These bits of information about the company, together with the opacity otherwise surrounding its creation, suggests that Inexto may have links with PMI. Consequently, regulators and policy decision makers who might have to deal with Inexto should be careful before assuming that the company is independent from the tobacco industry. They should request that solid and trustworthy evidence of its independence be provided by the new company. In particular, they should request Inexto to produce the list of its shareholders and copies of all its contractual agreements with DCTA and its member companies, notably Philip Morris, including full information about the conditions under which intellectual property rights for Codentify were transferred to the new company.