[Update: CBP Doubles Down] US customs seized 2,000 OnePlus Buds thinking they’re counterfeit Apple AirPods

[Update: CBP Doubles Down] US customs seized 2,000 OnePlus Buds thinking they’re counterfeit Apple AirPods

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Update 1 (09/14/2020 @ 04:01 PM ET): The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is doubling down on its decision to seize thousands of OnePlus Buds. Scroll to the bottom for more information. The article as published earlier today at 05:56 AM ET, is preserved below.

OnePlus’ first pair of truly wireless earphones — the OnePlus Buds — were unveiled last month alongside the OnePlus Nord. The earbuds featured a design similar to the first-gen Apple AirPods, with half in-ear style earbuds and an oval case. However, unlike other AirPods clones out there, the OnePlus Buds do have some noticeable differences (branding and packaging being the most obvious ones) that would help anyone identify that they aren’t counterfeit AirPods. But apparently these differences aren’t as major, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently seized them mistaking them as Apple AirPods.

CBP officers at an air cargo facility located at John F. Kennedy International Airport have mistakenly sized 2,000 OnePlus Buds as counterfeit AirPods. The shipment, which is valued at around $158,000, was seized on its way from Hong Kong to Nevada. In a tweet on the matter, the CBP wrote: “CBP officers at JFK Airport recently seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, valued at $398K had they been genuine.”

In a press release regarding the incident, Troy Miller, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations, said, “CBP Officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis…The interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.”

As of now, it isn’t clear if all of the 2,000 seized units were OnePlus Buds, though the images shared by the CBP clearly suggest that at least a few of them were. While the press release doesn’t mention OnePlus, it seems like the company is aware of the situation. In response to the aforementioned tweet, the company wrote: “Hey, give those back!.” We will update this post as and when we learn more about the fate of these “counterfeit AirPods“.


Update 1: CBP denies making a mistake

A spokesperson for the CBP issued a statement to The Verge, defending the agency’s move to seize thousands of OnePlus Buds at JFK airport. In the statement, the spokesperson states that the agency determined the Buds to “violate Apple’s configuration trademark.” A configuration trademark provides rights to the design of a product, meaning the OnePlus Buds merely looking too similar to the Apple AirPods can be enough for it to be considered in violation of the trademark.

However, there are a lot of other TWS earbuds on the market that look close to or are nearly identical in design to the Apple AirPods. It’s thus strange to see this action taken on the OnePlus Buds, which actually feature some noticeable design differences such as the inclusion of the touchpad on the back and have a more rounded charging case. It’s even stranger to see this action taken by the CBP rather than Apple—if the OnePlus Buds truly are in violation of Apple’s configuration trademark, then surely Apple would take OnePlus to task over it? In any case, we’ll be monitoring this (still hilarious) situation for any new developments.

Here’s the statement from the CBP in full:

“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.”