Cisco, Ciena Show Anti-Counterfeiting Can Be a Team Sport (

by Scott Graham

With help from RPX co-founder John Amster’s newest venture, the networking competitors have joined forces to create “an industry solution to an industry problem.”

John Amster is rounding up the posse again.

Twelve years ago, Amster co-founded RPX Corp. on the notion that if marketplace competitors joined forces, they could more effectively neutralize patent threats from nonpracticing entities.

His new venture, Rowan TELS Corp., has now helped put two networking competitors, Cisco Systems and Ciena, together in a bid to put counterfeiters out of business.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California granted Cisco and Ciena a preliminary injunction Monday authorizing the seizure of counterfeit transceivers marketed by two Chinese companies and enjoining banks, e-commerce websites, domain name registrars and internet search engines from providing them services.

Bartko Zankel Bunzel & Miller litigated the motion for both Cisco and Ciena. Rowan used data from the two companies and its own analytics to identify two of the highest-volume sellers of suspicious transceivers, Shenzhen Usource Technology and Shenzhen Warex Technologies. Rowan obtained sample products from each company; Cisco and Ciena’s testing confirmed they were counterfeits.

“I’m glad we’re doing this together with Ciena. We have common cause here,” said Bill Friedman, Cisco’s senior director for global compliance enablement and brand protection. “You create an industry solution to an industry problem. I think it should put folks on notice that we mean business here.”

“We share a common interest and responsibility with many across the industry in working to eliminate counterfeit products from the market,” Ciena said in an emailed statement.

Amster left RPX in 2017 following a disagreement on strategy with the board of directors. He founded Rowan TELS the following year with the goal of combining consulting expertise with artificial intelligence. (TELS stands for Technology-Enabled Legal Services.)

Counterfeiting has been an area of focus. It’s a crime that’s estimated to cost more than $1 trillion a year, but there’s relatively little private enforcement in federal courts, in part because the problem often seems intractable from the viewpoint of individual companies, Amster said.

Neil Rubin, a former vice president for litigation at Cisco who’s joined Amster at Rowan, said sending cease-and-desist letters to online marketplaces provides “a bit of a sugar high.” The court order Cisco and Ciena obtained—with its reach to banks, search engines and delivery services—is designed “to disrupt an entire ecosystem.”

It’s true, Cisco and Ciena are a team of only two plaintiffs, so far. But, Amster says, his company went looking and “we have not been able to find a Lanham Act [counterfeiting] case with more than one plaintiff.”

Bartko partner Stephen Steinberg argued the preliminary injunction motion for Cisco and Ciena. Appearing with him at the Aug. 13 hearing were partner Patrick Ryan and associate Gabriella Wilkins. Shenzhen Usource and Shenzhen Warex did not appear at the hearing.


Photo: Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM