Cisco Systems says it is protecting partners and customers with its latest action against the sellers of counterfeit gear on the East and West Coasts.
The company filed five lawsuits in New Jersey and California, according to Bill Friedman, Cisco's director of litigation, who said in a blog that, "These sellers imported and sold numerous counterfeit products to unsuspecting customers who thought they were getting Cisco's high-quality products."
The action, Friedman wrote, protects both customers and partners. Fake Cisco gear, he wrote, fails far more frequently than genuine Cisco products, and those failures "can cause privacy and security vulnerabilities, data loss, network downtime and substantial business interruption."
In all, Cisco filed five suits in U.S. District Court, three in California and two in New Jersey. One California suit alleges trademark infringement, counterfeiting, false advertising, trademark infringement, misleading and deceptive advertising, breach of contract and false advertising on the part of Beccela's Ect. LLC, a retailer that allegedly counterfeit Cisco gear on Amazon.com.
Another suit filed in California District court levels the same claims against ServerSupply.com, which Cisco claims sold counterfeit Cisco products between 2010 and 2017.
Very similar claims are made against Dmitri Shaitor and OD Networks in the third California suit, which argues that Shaitor and OD Networks imported and sold counterfeit Cisco products.
In the first suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Cisco claims a company called Tech Data Reseller LLC, along with NCom Limited and an individual named Ramazan Turk, imported distributed and sold counterfeit Cisco products. The company claims the defendants committed federal trademark infringement; federal counterfeiting; false designation of origin; importing of goods bearing infringing marks or names; as well as breaking state counterfeiting, trademark and unfair competition laws.
In the second New Jersey case, Cisco alleges the same violations were committed by Umit International, dba T-Net Technology, Beyin Information Technology and Bryant Information Technology.
Friedman said the San Jose, Calif., company is always on the lookout for sellers of counterfeit products and "takes steps" to curb the problem by working with U.S. Customers and border protection officials to stop fake gear at the border, demand that the sellers of counterfeit gear stop what they're doing, and "pursue legal action, including law enforcement referrals for criminal investigations of particularly egregious cases."
Friedman leads Cisco's Brand Protection team, a group of 40 people that monitor the networking giant's distribution channel and develop anti-counterfeiting measures to sniff out fraud.
A Cisco spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the cases Tuesday.
Friedman advised that customers only buy Cisco products from authorized Cisco partners or direct from the company.
Kent MacDonald, vice president at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Canada, solution provider that works with Cisco, said the vendor "has always been vigilant on grey market" sellers and encourages partners to report suspected counterfeiting, even if it's an uphill battle.
"It seems like a game of whack-a-mole," MacDonald said. "As you take one out, another appears. This elevated action will hopefully put the counterfeit market out of business. They impact partners' profitability, and they put our customers' business at risk."
Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Burlington, Mass., solution provider that works with Cisco, said it's necessary for Cisco to take action against people who sell counterfeit gear in order to protect legitimate resellers' reputations.
"It's very important to protect resellers' reputations," Smeltzer said. "We buy from distribution and take for granted that the gear is real."