How the used gear industry is winning the fight against counterfeiters

A used gear dealer shares tricks for detecting counterfeit gear, but says the biggest issue is Cisco's lack of cooperation

Why aren't you cooperating with Cisco? Cisco and other manufacturers say the only way to be sure of authenticity is to buy from their authorized channels. How do you respond to that? How can you guarantee the quality of second-hand equipment? I've heard that if I buy used I get no warranty or technical support?

We would love to cooperate with Cisco, but with few exceptions Cisco has refused our numerous overtures. In NHR's case specifically, Cisco has twice offered to help with one specific instance of suspected counterfeit hardware, but the terms under which it offered its help were unacceptable, and its offer did not include any education or explanation at all - just a simple yes it's authentic, or no it's counterfeit. We would also have been required to supply Cisco with complete information about every purchase from the same vendor over time.

I do want to reiterate an offer that NHR and the United Network Equipment Dealer Association (UNEDA) has made directly to Cisco and in print a number of times: We would welcome the opportunity to cooperate with Cisco and eradicate the counterfeit problem forever. We will sign an NDA, we will travel to you, we will meet at your convenience. Working together we can make the resale of counterfeit goods so difficult, and so unprofitable, that the purveyors of counterfeit hardware will be put out of business.

Also, the counterfeit resellers depend on cheap, public, widely viewed marketing to sell their products (like eBay). Get them off of eBay, Alibaba, and the like, and much of the problem goes away.

Regarding buying authorized, where do the authorized resellers get their equipment from? If it's shipped directly from Cisco that's certainly one way to be sure - but Cisco Raider showed that it's the source, not the reseller, that is the issue. Also, if a piece of solid-state hardware, designed to work for decades is $10,000 from an authorized seller and $2,500 from the secondary - and is guaranteed to be authentic - I think most companies would agree there are real reasons to look outside the channel.

The reasons for looking to the secondary market for equipment also go beyond price, and include end-of-life gear, emergency procurement needs (the secondary market can supply things in days - from Cisco it often takes weeks or months), better standard warranties, and significantly cheaper maintenance costs.

Warranty and support is another area of confusion regarding secondary market hardware. Cisco offers a variety of standard warranties on its hardware, but most are basic repair-and-replace at best, and do not include tech support.

Secondary market vendors have had to exceed this in order to compete, and most offer 90-day to 1-year or longer. (NHR offers 1-year advance replacement on everything we sell), as well as add-on tech support offering 24-hour support and next-day to 4-hour response at a cost that is a fraction of Cisco SmartNet.

What tools are available which allow the detection of counterfeits and are any of them IP enabled?

The Cisco CCO tool allows someone to check the validity of a serial number, but good counterfeits use real serials. Besides this, the tools are mostly "preponderance of evidence" based, as we are not capable of definitively proving something to be authentic - only deeming it suspicious - and if we are suspicious (using over a dozen criteria) we reject it.

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