Semiconductor industry comes to grips with DNA marking anti-counterfeit mandate

NASHUA, N.H.-Several members of the semiconductor industry spoke about the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) DNA marking mandate for certain electronic components during a Military & Aerospace Electronics webcast, entitled "The DNA Marking Controversy."

The mandate states that DNA marking must be used by companies that would like to take part in bidding for DLA contracts.

The participants, Dale Lillard, president of Lansdale Semiconductor in Phoenix; Lee Mathiesen, chairman of JEDEC subcommittee JC-13.2; and Dan Deisz, director of design at Rochester Electronics in Newburyport, Mass., spoke on the problems involved with the mandate.

Major complaints included the DNA marking being single-source, a lack of testing done, logistical problems, a lack of information given to industry, the top-down approach, and that DNA marking may be ineffective against counterfeiting.

The speakers claimed that the semiconductor industry was not given sufficient information, and that industry questions have gone unanswered.

The semiconductor industry voiced concerns about the DNA marking anti-counterfeit mandate during a December Webcast.
The semiconductor industry voiced concerns about the DNA marking anti-counterfeit mandate during a December Webcast.

"We have asked two pages of questions to Applied DNA concerning the reliability of the products, and to date we have not received any answers," JEDEC's Mathiesen said. "Those questions were written October 26. We have had no response from Applied DNA" as of mid-December.

The speakers also expressed concerns that the mandate not only harms original component manufacturers (OCMs), but also increases costs for the DLA. This mandate is causing OCMs to bid with exception to the DNA marking, which causes the bids to go into a loop at the DLA. If there are no bids that don't have exception, the ones in the loop need to be evaluated. This process is putting a strain on the DLA, as no company in JEDEC, which has 70 companies, is planning on bidding without exception. This requires the DLA to do more work to select suppliers.

Logistics for DNA marking is also a problem, as OCMs use subcontractors. "As a manufacturer, we looked at it from our ability to deal with our subcontractors," said Lillard. "We approached them and basically they are as puzzled as we are. Again, other than taking the product into my house after I take it back from the subcontractor and putting a DNA dot on it, there's no other way of implementing it without our subcontractors embracing it."

Then there is the question of whether or not DNA marking is effective against counterfeits. The speakers explained that many counterfeits are recycled e-waste from China, which means that if DNA marking is used across the board, counterfeit parts could still have legitimate DNA marking on them.

Another concern expressed about the effectiveness of DNA marking was that DNA marking only identifies who added the tag; it does not identify the complete chain of custody from OCM through delivery to DLA. DNA provides no assurance of product performance, or if proper handling and storage protocol have been observed.

DNA marking may interfere with the electronics it is used on. When asked a question from the audience about whether DNA marking can compromise quality, Deisz answered: "We don't know. That's a bigger problem, how can we mandate when we don't know? In reality, the data isn't all there. JEDEC has asked a series of questions; those questions have not been adequately answered. It's ready, fire, aim, as far as I'm concerned."

The root of the problems stem from a lack of communication with the semiconductor industry, which has been attempting to be heard on the subject for some time now.

To hear the pay-per-view webcast in its entirety, visit the registration page online at

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