In what looks like an embarrassing error, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has seized a shipment of OnePlus Buds, believing they were “2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods,” as spotted by The Verge. “CBP officers at JFK Airport recently seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, valued at $398K had they been genuine,” the agency tweeted.
THAT'S NOT AN 🍎 —
CBP officers at JFK Airport recently seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, valued at $398K had they been genuine.
Details via @CBPNewYorkCity: https://t.co/XMgjkfT56i pic.twitter.com/Ofn9REJ9ZB
— CBP (@CBP) September 14, 2020
Despite the resemblance to Apple’s famous stick-like Airpods, however, the box clearly indicates that these are OnePlus Buds. And they’re priced at $80 apiece and not $200 like Apple’s Airpods (with charging case), so the correct value of the shipment is more like $160,000 and not $398,000.
In a press release, CBP said the seizure is an example of how it is “protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis.” However, this instead seems to be a head-scratching error, as OnePlus is by now a well-known brand that has been selling smartphones and other products (including its Bullets earphones) in the US for years.
There’s no doubt that the Buds are very similar to AirPods, largely because of the color and stick-like appendage. However, plenty of other brands, including Oppo and even JBL, have “paid homage” to the famous design — and we haven’t heard of the CBP seizing those. In any case, OnePlus USA has definitely taken note of the issue and come back with a cheeky reply.
Update (5 PM ET): In a statement sent to Engadget, a CBP spokesperson stood by the seizure, claiming it was “unrelated to the images or language on the box.” Apparently its official stance is that its officers can eyeball trademark violations, while it’s unclear whether future shipments of the OnePlus buds (or other products that tread much further into knockoff territory) will be disrupted.
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). 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. The importer will have many opportunities through the adjudication process to provide evidence that their product does not violate the relevant recorded trademarks.
Hey, give those back! 🙃
— OnePlus USA (@OnePlus_USA) September 14, 2020