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Because at some point, CBP may wise up and delete this press release, here's an archived version.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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Filed Under: airpods, cbp, competition, counterfeit, dhs, seizures
Companies: apple, oneplus


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:41pm

    Minus a few samples

    "Hey, give those back! 🙃"

    My guess is that if they do in fact give them back they will get 1900 of the 2000 pairs stolen. The excuse will be 'testing' for infringing innards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:47pm

    CPB to taxpaying (and non-taxpaying) public

    "We're so stupid we think a third-party clone that's clearly labeled as such is a counterfeit."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:55pm

    Next they’ll seize a shipment of Genesis cars and claim they’re bootleg European sport sedans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      Or they think they're bootleg Sega Consoles or musical paraphernalia from Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford (and maybe others, including Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Squonk, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:28pm

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

        I don't Follow You

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:33pm

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

          Then this must be some misunderstanding...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            DeComposer (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 4:22pm

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

            Oh come on. That's No Reply At All.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 4:27pm

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

              Why don't you just turn off your computer or smartphone and then Turn It On Again?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2020 @ 9:50am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Ruther

                I can't dance around the stupidity of this thread. I feel like we might as well be throwing it all away.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 6:35am

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

          I don't Follow You

          TechDirt does not have a "follow" button. (not that I have seen)

          Usually, not wanting to follow someone is not worth announcing.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 7:17am

            Re: Re: Re: 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".

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 9:53am

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

              Never mind the allusions, even the normal plain meaning of "I don't follow" seems to have escaped them.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Squonk, 15 Sep 2020 @ 2:30pm

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

              "The prerequisite to understanding said joke is familiarity with the catalog of the English Progressive Rock band Genesis." and thus, Squonk.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JR, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:28pm

        Re: Re:

        They would claim it was "Robbery, Assault and Battery"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Khym Chanur (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:56pm

    Lots of people on Twitter are blaming OnePlus for "ripping off" Apple's design.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:05pm

      Re:

      Lots of people are blaming Apple for "ripping off" Xerox's design.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:30pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:54pm

        Re: Re:

        Those people on Twitter are saying really stupid things.

        "People on twitter say stupid things! News at 11."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 12:26am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 14 Sep 2020 @ 1:58pm

    I don't suppose

    that there's a teeny, tiny chance that apple has a design patent on a particular curve/shape on the earbuds that is copied in the OnePlus design...nah, didn't think so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 4:59am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:04pm

    “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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:46pm

      Re:

      Well, people are getting killed by earpods because of not hearing approaching cars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      evilhamsterman (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 7:40pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 9:48pm

        Re: Re:

        This comment is a bit shortsighted.

        Umm.... I would think the CBP are a bit shortsighted if they really think that OnePlus Buds are counterfeit Apple Airpods!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 12:34am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:14pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    rw (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:34pm

    Obviously, they only hire illegal immigrants that can't read English.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:35pm

    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 :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:40pm

      Re: Now it's a trademark thing....

      maybe apple has a patents on things that go in ones ear and make sound?
      But i dont see any way the oneplus ear buds could be violating a trademark.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:49pm

        Re: Re: Now it's a trademark thing....

        maybe apple has a patents on things that go in ones ear and make sound?

        There is prior art in the form of various flies and beetles.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 12:42am

      Re: Now it's a trademark thing....

      "...and claim the OnePlus buds violate Apple's trademarks."

      Now comes the real question. What's Apple's take on the CPB issuing civil suits on Apple's behalf, likely without their knowledge?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:56pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 2:58pm

      Re:

      That's not their job.
      This is just a total screwup

      As far as I know: screwing up is the CBP's job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Sep 2020 @ 1:23am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 8:50am

      Re:

      According to Ars, they violated Apple's "configuration trademark". As best as I can tell, this means the shape of the headphones is too similar to Apple's?

      Doesn't make much sense to me, there are only so many shapes and sizes that will fit inside the ear...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 9:03am

        Re: Re:

        According to Ars, they violated Apple's "configuration trademark". As best as I can tell, this means the shape of the headphones is too similar to Apple's?

        Even if that excuse were true, shouldn't that be something decided by a court of law and not CBP's fiat?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 7:28pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 12:48am

            Re: Re: Re: 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!"

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re:

        Product configuration trademarks: Because monopoly over vague pointless shit is good says Capitalism, allowed says Government.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 3:12pm

    Too bad they didn't actually save anyone from paying $199 (or more) for actual Apple earbuds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      Too bad they didn't actually save anyone from paying $199 (or more) for actual Apple earbuds.

      Of course. I did the job myself by sticking with the old wired (with microphone) earbuds. I don't want to get something that would only work with Apple Products; I also have a Nintendo Switch!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coises (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 3:32pm

    Perhaps a bit literal...

    Perhaps a bit literal as a demonstration of the "moron in a hurry" test... but here we have it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 3:40pm

    Perhaps a bit literal as a demonstration of the "moron in a hurry" test... but here we have it.

    So what you're saying is CBP actually stands for Clueless Buffoon Protection.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2020 @ 3:45pm

    two weeks and counting

    seizure on 8/31. press release on 9/11.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tobias Harms (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 2:52am

      Re: two weeks and counting

      I'm sure it's just a coincident. Who would ever believe such a thing as a US branch to save up and drum up some good PR just for 9/11? /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    urza9814 (profile), 14 Sep 2020 @ 4:16pm

    fraud.

    Hmm...there's a link on that page to report "suspected fraud". The claims that these are counterfeit Apple products seems pretty damn fraudulent to me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Sep 2020 @ 9:12am

      Re: fraud.

      It's not that the OnePlus earbuds are counterfeit Apple Airphones. It's that the OnePlus earbud users are counterfeit Apple hipsters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re: fraud.

        OK, you like saying "hipster", we get it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 12:57am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 1:51pm

    Just to ask.

    Follow up??
    See if they Figure things out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 2:50pm

    OnePlus is Chinese

    This wasn't a mistake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      xyzzy (profile), 15 Sep 2020 @ 7:06pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Sep 2020 @ 1:00am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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