Detect the signs of counterfeiting that can protect your company’s network from serious risks and millions in lost revenue.


Counterfeiting hardware and software is an illegal and lucrative trade which leads to an estimated $100B loss of revenue annually across IT industries. As one of the largest and most reputable brands in the world, Cisco is often a target of counterfeiters.


For all end-users across Cisco’s ecosystem, counterfeiting presents serious risks to network quality, performance, safety, and reliability. It is dangerous because counterfeit products are not designed or built to meet the same safety standard certifications that genuine Cisco products attain. For example, changes to power supplies have been observed, which poses risks to safety certification and puts equipment, its operators, and the entire network at risk.


The Cisco Brand Protection team partners closely with both law enforcement and customs officials around the world to stop counterfeit products at borders, identify counterfeiting operations, and pursue legal actions against infringers of Cisco’s intellectual property rights, including trademarks. Our goal is to actively support our partners and customers in protecting their investment in Cisco solutions.


To help educate the industry, our partners, customers, and fellow Cisconians alike detect counterfeit products, here are the best practices to consider when purchasing Cisco goods and services that will help safeguard your networks, data, people, and overall business from counterfeit networking equipment.


1. Check the labels to recognize if a Cisco product is genuine.

Cisco’s Identity Counterfeit Platform provides a means to identify key security features on the Carton Security, PCBA, and Module Security labels that indicate that a Cisco product is genuine.


— Carton security labels, often found overlapping the edge of the carton’s white label.

  • Look for a genuine hologram. Click on the video to see authentic features when labels are tilted:
    • Stylized Cisco bridge logo visible between moon and arrow will shift color
    • Background color changes between moon and star images
    • Hour markers on the clock face vary in colors
    • Color shifting area varies from purple to green by changing the viewing angles
    • Reflective circular foil area reveals a bridge image when tilted

— PBCA Security Label  –Holographic and other security features are found on most line cards and modules’ printed circuit board assemblies.

  • To see genuine holographic features, click on the video
  • Rotating an authentic label reveals a checkmark and padlock symbols
  • Best viewing of the side dots with its corresponding numeric numbers is achieved with a single light source and by tilting the label left to right and up and down


— Module Security Label — Holographic security indicators are on most optical transceivers and highspeed cable assemblies.

  • Tilt the genuine holographic label to see a padlock, the text “BP” and check marks at three different depth levels.

We also created a “Report Counterfeit Products” form for customers using our anti-counterfeiting techniques and feel that something is not right with the labels or equipment. Through the form, customers can escalate any concerns directly with Cisco Brand Protection and provide key market intelligence to help disrupt counterfeiters. The Brand Protection team reviews the reports on a daily basis.


2. Always source your Cisco products and support services directly from Cisco’s authorized channels.

Cisco products are among the best performing and highest quality networking products in the market. Cisco customers benefit from purchasing products directly from Cisco’s qualified and authorized resellers—known as Cisco Authorized Partners or Cisco Partners—because only they can provide your organization with knowledgeable sales support during and after your purchase. The Cisco products you purchase from Cisco Partners will include valid software licenses and Cisco warranties, and they are eligible for Cisco SmartNet and other industry-leading Cisco technical support programs. You can consult the list of Cisco Partners on our Partner Locator website.


3. Check that equipment comes with a valid software license and warranty.

Cisco sells its products with end user licenses that permit the purchaser of the product to use the software—such as Cisco IOS on a Cisco router or switch. . If your company purchases Cisco products from an unauthorized reseller, you may not have a valid software license, in which case, you would need to purchase a software license or submit a request and be approved for a license transfer.

Cisco products are also sold with end user warranties. These express warranties are personal to the first end user who uses the equipment and may not be transferred to any subsequent user of Cisco equipment. Cisco may not provide warranty support for any equipment, which you purchase from an unauthorized reseller.

If you purchase a Cisco product from an unauthorized reseller, Cisco may require a physical quality and configuration inspection before your product may be eligible for technical support via SMARTnet, or another Cisco technical services offerings. The inspection is provided for a fee. Visit Cisco’ Support and Download website for more information.


When buying mission critical networking products and services, it is imperative to qualify and authenticate the trustworthiness of your supply chain. Products sourced from outside Cisco’s authorized channels may not be guaranteed by Cisco. In addition, they may pass through many hands before they are delivered to you, making it possible that equipment and software has been altered to make them vulnerable to attack or premature failure.


If you suspect illegal or unauthorized activity that affects Cisco’s hardware, software, and brand, you can send a tip (anonymously if you wish) to brandprotection@cisco.com.


Following these guidelines will enable you to safely and legally operate Cisco networking hardware and software.


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Al Palladin

Legal Director

Global Brand Protection