Counterfeiting Crackdown Benefits Cisco Partners

'I'm pretty passionate on this topic because I believe our partners deserve us taking care of the bad guys,' Cisco Channel Chief Oliver Tuszik tells CRN.

Cisco Systems is tightening the reins on partner procurement control as the company fights against counterfeiters that are pushing real, registered channel partners out of deals and peddling fake Cisco products.

For Cisco's global channel chief, Oliver Tuszik, it's not just about "perform" and "transform"—it's also about protecting partners and penalizing fraudsters, he said in a recent blog post.

Cisco, a large tech giant that inevitably is targeted by bad actors, is doing a lot from a channel perspective to fight the "very few" partners that are stealing the company's intellectual property and not following its rules of channel engagement, Tuszik, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, told CRN.

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"It's not only important to find these partners to penalize them, but what's even more important is to protect the 99.99 percent of partners that are doing the right thing," he said.

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Cisco is helping its partners protect their investments through its dedicated Brand Protection organization and by developing anti-counterfeiting features within its product portfolio. Cisco's Brand Protection organization, Tuszik explained, works as the San Jose, Calif.-based provider's "brand police" and partners with customs teams and regional governments globally, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In April 2019, the organization seized $626,880 worth of counterfeit Cisco products in one day, according to Cisco.

The crackdown on fraudulent partners is music to the ears of Katalyst, a Charlotte, N.C.-based solution provider and Cisco partner that has a Master Collaboration Partner designation.

"We don't want to compete with some unauthorized reseller who hasn't gone through all the hoops and hurdles we have to maintain our certifications," said Jesse White, field CTO for Katalyst. "I want Cisco to lock it down tight because it's definitely not free enterprise when it comes to the certifications you need to hold and the people you have to employ to sell these products."

Cisco is coming down hard on noncompliant partners by investing in rigorous on-boarding and screening processes that make it harder for unauthorized suppliers to register and compete against Cisco's compliant partners, Tuszik said.

Some legitimate Cisco partners have lost deals to noncompliant partners claiming to have the best price for a product that is half the price the legitimate partner could offer, Tuszik said. "There's people or companies that just are focused on stealing our intellectual property and offering products with the wrong discount to make a gray market to make counterfeit products. Instead of saying, 'We can't prove it, I'm going to be a pain for those few partners," he pledged.

Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based Cisco partner, hasn't been squeezed out of a deal directly by an unauthorized partner, but the tightening of the reins around Cisco's partner model has been positive from a geographic authorization perspective because the process is being more policed, said Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances.

"We're seeing more referrals to support, say, a U.S.-based partner that doesn't have a presence in Canada to work with other partners like us in the geographies that we're present," MacDonald said. "We're you're authorized, you should be able to do all the business you can, but where you haven't made those investments, you need to work with a partner in the community who has."

When Cisco partners take a hit, customers also lose because they could ultimately end up with counterfeit Cisco products that don’t work, according to Cisco.

"I'm pretty passionate on this topic because I believe our partners deserve us taking care of the bad guys," Tuszik said.