CBP So Confused It Seizes Clearly Labeled OnePlus Earbuds, And Falsely Claims They're Counterfeit Apple Airpods

from the can't-tell-your-ass-from-a... dept

Homeland Security and its various sub-organizations have a fairly tragic history of seizing things they shouldn’t, claiming that non-infringing works are “counterfeits.” And DHS continues to cluelessly push out press releases that only highlight how ignorant they are regarding the basics of the very laws they’re supposed to be enforcing.

Usually, our posts on this subject focus on ICE, but it appears that its sister organization, Customs and Border Patrol, wants to get in on the act as well. Last week, CBP put out a ridiculous press release proudly claiming to have “seized” counterfeit Apple Airpods at JFK.

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.?

Because at some point, CBP may wise up and delete this press release, here’s an archived version.

To understand why this is laughable, you have to see the pictures of the seized “counterfeit” Airpods. Conveniently, clueless people at CBP decided to tweet it out:

In case you can’t see that tweet and the pictures, those are very clearly and accurately labeled as OnePlus Buds. OnePlus is a popular maker of Android mobile phones (I have one!) and accessories. It may be true that OnePlus’s bluetooth earbuds look somewhat similar to Apple’s Airpods, but that’s true of lots of different Bluetooth earbuds, and since the packaging here clearly shows that these are from OnePlus and not at all attempting to mimic or pretend to be Apple packaging, suggests that CBP, yet again, has seized legitimate products while stupidly insisting that they’re counterfeit.

OnePlus even responded to CBP on Twitter:

It’s almost depressing how bad DHS, CBP, and ICE are the jobs we’ve given them. Perhaps it’s time to just do away with all of them.

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Companies: apple, oneplus

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Comments on “CBP So Confused It Seizes Clearly Labeled OnePlus Earbuds, And Falsely Claims They're Counterfeit Apple Airpods”

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68 Comments
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford

The joke went over your head. The prerequisite to understanding said joke is familiarity with the catalog of the English Progressive Rock band Genesis.

FWIW, when he said "Follow You", he was making a reference to the track "Follow You, Follow Me" from the Genesis album "…And Then There Were Three".

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Absent a court case where apple obtains a ruling in their favour (and I’m not sure what kind of ruling would support this theft by LEO), so what? Even if the exterior design was identical, they are not counterfeits of apple products. They won’t work with apple devices, because they are Android peripherals.

Those people on Twitter are saying really stupid things. If they actually exist at all.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Even if the exterior design was identical, they are not counterfeits of apple products. They won’t work with apple devices, because they are Android peripherals."

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Apple had been the complainant – they’re known to abuse patent law over aspects like "rectangular communications device with centered screen and rounded corners" after all…
…but I had the perhaps naíve idea that actual customs officers might have a better clue about what constitutes a counterfeit than a small child or an apple lawyer paid to argue like a child.

Honestly, wtf is wrong with US law enforcement? It’s as if their training consists exclusively of a moldy old Soviet Russia instruction manual for commissars.

If Apple has a problem with OnePlus earbud design then that’s a civil case Apple gets to take to a court, not a case where government authority decides the open market products of a peripheral OEM are counterfeits – because you can see from the label on the packaging that they’re manifestly not.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: I don't suppose

"…pple has a design patent on a particular curve/shape on the earbuds that is copied in the OnePlus design…"

Well, in Germany Apple managed to get it through the patent court that a communications device with a centered glass screen and rounded aluminium-enhanced corners were an Apple design it sufficed to get the Galaxy tab yanked off the market.
Not even going into the witches cauldron which has been the smartphone patent war, apparently fought primarily by beating one another over the head with 20,000 obsolete patents.

That’s the problem with IP. In the end the greatest beneficiary is always going to be the one with the biggest legal team.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Jason says:

“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.

Even if the seizure of these earbuds were somehow warranted, you’d think there would be far more dangerous "dangers" that they could be focusing their efforts on.

evilhamsterman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This comment is a bit shortsighted.

There are certainly a lot of problems with the CBP, but the seizure of counterfeit goods is literally one of their jobs that they are supposed to be focused on. It’s in the name Customs and Border Protection. They have agents whose entire job is finding an seizing counterfeit and illegal goods.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"There are certainly a lot of problems with the CBP, but the seizure of counterfeit goods is literally one of their jobs that they are supposed to be focused on."

And as the OP illustrates the CPB does that in a way so terrible you’re left to wonder whether they were given training beyond "Grab goods at random and roll a die for which complaint from list B to use".

It’s pretty obvious a clearly brand-labeled box containing OnePlus peripherals can not contain counterfeit Apple earbuds. It’s possible it contains counterfeit OnePlus earbuds but that’s a different story, and one which should have the CPB asking OnePlus "pardon me, but are these truly your earbuds?".

Instead they go on twitter and brag about how inept they are at their jobs.

If Apple had a beef in this it would be in the form of a patent dispute which, given Apple’s history of patent litigation, they would have launched a long time ago.

"They have agents whose entire job is finding an seizing counterfeit and illegal goods."

So…where are the agents doing that job, then? The CPB twitter blurb in itself already proves no one qualified to do that job was on the case.

evilhamsterman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t discount this was a heinously stupid action by the CBP. I’m just pointing out the quote

you’d think there would be far more dangerous "dangers" that they could be focusing their efforts on.

is shortsighted because they were doing their jobs. Doing them badly yes, but it isn’t distracting them from other things.

It’s like saying to a highway patrol officer that pulls you over for speeding "shouldn’t you be off catching bad guys". Regardless of how you feel about the police (believe me I’m firmly in the camp we need reform), that highway patrol office shouldn’t be off somewhere else catching bad guys, they’re department purpose is traffic enforcement and his job is pulling people over and ticketing them.

You can criticize for how well they do their job (like seizing perfectly legal goods) but you can’t criticize for not doing their job when they did do their job

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I feel safer that these morons are making sure illegal things can’t make it into the country. They imagined this package said Apple and AirPods, so I feel secure that they are competent.

(Note: I’m immortal, them missing Sarin or other WMD doesn’t bother me because I survive.)

My question is did they need to get a warrant to seize stuff?
If they did I gotta wonder how pleased a Judge will be to have their name on a completely fraudulent document allowing for property to be seized from the rightful owners, on imaginary charges, that now has global attention.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Now it's a trademark thing....

CPB has updated its comments to walk back "counterfeit" and claim the OnePlus buds violate Apple’s trademarks. While CPB does have "enforcement of border trademark violations" on their charter, it doesn’t seem to me these illiterate child-caging simians* have the intellect to hold a candle to IP lawyers.

Ehud

  • No insult to the simian population is intended.
    P.S. Mike, sorry to hear about your pooch – my condolences 🙁
Anonymous Coward says:

The box is labelled one plus earbuds so where’s the trademark violation. They are similar to 100s of earbuds on the market only a moron in a hurry would think they are apple airpods.
The charging case is not the same shape as an airpods case.
Of course there’s markets where people sell fake Gucci bags and rolex watches if someone wants apple airpods they can go to an Apple store.
CPD are not the ones who should be concerned about apple trademarks on design.
That’s not their job.
This is just a total screwup

David says:

Re: Re:

The box is labelled one plus earbuds so where’s the trademark violation.

Seriously? People don’t stuff the boxes in their ears. They unpack those clearly marked boxes and take the earbuds out. They put just the earbuds in their ears and leave their home without the box, looking like hipsters without paying the price to Apple.

And to add insult to injury, they look like hipsters without even having paid the price for an iPhone. If there were a mandatory open carry policy for smartphones, the damage inflicted on Apple would be less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Let’s face it, it’s Apple. It’s not nearly the first time they’ve gone nuts because of a shape.

As for the CBP, we’re already at the point where ICE is in charge of shutting down sites based on the RIAA’s say-so. That’s the timeline we live in. If tomorrow Trump scrambled the fucking army because someone in China downloaded a Britney Spears song it wouldn’t surprise me.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"If tomorrow Trump scrambled the fucking army because someone in China downloaded a Britney Spears song it wouldn’t surprise me."

…it would be a definite first if Trump tried to punish someone for having bad taste.
Then again, it’s Trump. He’d just add it to the pile of reasons meant to justify the saber-rattling, right on top of the "Can’t trust the chinese, last time I ordered takeout they stiffed me on the fortune cookie!"

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: fraud.

"It’s that the OnePlus earbud users are counterfeit Apple hipsters."

Apple might try to push that through a court.

Until apple itself comes out saying they started the mess, however, the original CPB twitter and followup just read like a bully bragging about what an idiot he’s been and upon finding out that wasn’t too smart, now tries to frame another bully as the guilty party.

Not A Great Plan.

xyzzy (profile) says:

Re: OnePlus is Chinese

I think you nailed it, whatever lame excuse they came up with, the REAL reason is to support a trade war that Trump seems to be convinced is such a bright idea.

Gotta pull out all the stops to protect Apple (repeatedly chant USA at this point, fellow patriots) against the yellow menace of OnePlus who have the audacity to try to compete.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: OnePlus is Chinese

"This wasn’t a mistake."

I’d sincerely hope the US hasn’t been downgraded to the old soviet russia way of showing how Johnny Foreigner isn’t welcome in thousands of small and petty ways.

Oh, who am I kidding. Having Trump’s walking concatenations of dunning-kruger put every Chinese company on a persona non grata list and hand it out to anyone likely to come in contact with anything oriental is just par for the course.

Ligoren (profile) says:

In order to avoid problems, it is better not to throw yourself at brands, but to take what really helps for this or that purpose. For example, I needed ear muffs, because I can not just withstand the constant noise from outside, I live in a very busy place and without it it it’s just hard to imagine a conditional day off. But I didn’t take the famous brands, I just studied the market and what are the real Safety Ear muffs https://systemofyoursafety.com/best-safety-earmuffs/ and that’s where I already found one of the options, which I later found where to buy. Now I have 3M Peltor Optime 101 Behind couplings, because they are very soft and pleasant to the body, so you can stay in them for hours without problems.

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