Yesterday I wrote about how US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) seized “counterfeit” Apple AirPods, though the story just keeps getting more interesting.
CBP seized “counterfeit” Apple AirPods
Last Friday, CBP put out a press release bragging about how it confiscated counterfeit Apple AirPod earbuds, as part of its mission of protecting Americans from various dangers. As the press release states:
On August 31, CBP officers seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple Airpod Earbuds from Hong Kong destined for Nevada at an air cargo facility located at John F. Kennedy International Airport. If the merchandise were genuine, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) would have been $398,000.
“CBP Officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis,” said Troy Miller, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “The interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.”
The TSA often puts out press releases about confiscating guns, so this doesn’t seem that unusual. There’s only one slight problem… these aren’t counterfeit Apple AirPods.
Rather these are OnePlus Buds. I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t heard of these before this story, though it states the name of the product on the package, and it’s easy enough to Google (and upon Googling, it’s clear that this is a big company).
OnePlus even Tweeted at the CBP, stating “Hey, give those back!”
Hey, give those back! 🙃
— OnePlus USA (@OnePlus_USA) September 14, 2020
Hah! Now, I suppose it’s possible that these are counterfeit OnePlus Buds, but then it seems like the CBP press release should state that, rather than claiming that these are counterfeit Apple AirPods.
CBP now claims these violate trademarks
Believe it or not, CBP is doubling down on its position of having seized these “counterfeit” Apple AirPods. As a CBP spokesperson tells The Verge:
“Upon examining the shipment in question, a CBP import specialist determined that the subject earbuds appeared to violate Apple’s configuration trademark. Apple has configuration trademarks on their brand of earbuds, and has recorded those trademarks with CBP. Based on that determination, CBP officers at JFK Airport have seized the shipment under 19 USC 1526 (e).”
That still raises the question of why CBP claimed that these were counterfeit Apple AirPods, rather than claiming that they were seizing OnePlus Buds, when the packaging was so obvious. A CBP spokesperson answered the question as follows:
“CBP’s seizure of the earbuds in question is unrelated to the images or language on the box. A company does not have to put an ‘Apple’ wordmark or design on their products to violate these trademarks.”
This is rather bizarre because:
- OnePlus Buds are already for sale in the US, so it’s not like this has been the first shipment
- Apple hasn’t filed a lawsuit over the OnePlus Buds, and they continue to be for sale in the US
I’m not really sure what to make of this situation anymore. If CBP really thought this was about trademark infringement rather than being a counterfeit product, you’d think the initial press release would have stated that.
It sure seems to me like CBP is simply doubling down on its press release and trying to save face.
Do OnePlus Buds violate the configuration trademark of Apple AirPods? I don’t know. While I suppose it’s good that this is something that CBP looks into, you’d think Apple would pursue legal action if it had any merit…
What do you make of this situation?
(Tip of the hat to Vidit)