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A shipment of more than 36,000 fake AirPods from China to Cincinnati has been seized by Customs and Border Protection after the fake earbuds were found to violate Apple's copyright infringement rules, according to a press release from the agency.

fake-airpods-cpb.jpg

The shipment of earbuds were declared seized on May 11 and May 13 after they were found to include not only Apple's logo but also the shape and design of AirPods. The 36,000 AirPods, valued at $7.16 million, were split across three separate shipments.
On May 6, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati inspected three large shipments from China and found what appeared to be tens of thousands of earbuds in violation of Apple's protected configurations. After consulting with an import specialist from CBP's Center of Excellence and Expertise, the items were found to be in violation of CBP trademark and copyright codes and were declared seized on May 11 and 13.
Apple products, especially AirPods, are often counterfeited and sold for a cheaper retail price. Apple is aware of the issue, having an entire team dedicated to ensuring these products do not hit the mainstream market. Manufacturers even go as far as to create fake versions of unreleased AirPods using information from rumors and leaks.

Article Link: Shipment of Fake AirPods Worth More Than $7 Million Seized By U.S. Authorities
 

69Mustang

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Jan 7, 2014
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Small correction. The seized items weren't worth $7 million. Customs said the items would have been worth $7 million if they were genuine AirPods. These weren't genuine, and would have most likely sold for a fraction of the price of genuine AirPods. What Customs seized was probably worth no more than half a million street value imo. $7 million just makes for a better headline.

Bigger correction. The items were not found to include Apple logos. The press release stated:
"Apple has configuration trademarks on their AirPods and has recorded those trademarks with the CBP. Furthermore, a company does not have to put the "Apple" wordmark or design on their products to violate these trademarks. In this instance, further inspection of the earbuds revealed that their shape and design replicated the protected Apple configuration."

Apple logos weren't found on the earbuds.
 
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ani4ani

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May 4, 2012
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I'm sure fake Airpods [Elite Pods?] are not worth $200 a pair, so the claim of $7M+ of "fake" Airpods is a stretch...more like $36K of Elite pods were seized.

Are they really fake or just cheap junk [very likely], since they're not packaged or named in any way to "dupe" any real potential AirPods buyer
 

a m u n

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2018
121
1,334
Later on the internet: do not buy AirPods, they have a pathetic quality. :(

Since Tim Cook became CEO, the quality has dropped. Don’t contradict me! I’ll show you my $50 AirPods to see and they’re not fake!
 

Return Zero

macrumors 65816
Oct 2, 2013
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Kentucky
Yeah, I'm with the other commenters questioning the $7 million figure. I bet these sell for $50-ish, so maybe $2 million actual worth here. Still, I love these stories. The amount of fraud out there is staggering.
 

shigzeo

macrumors 6502a
Dec 14, 2005
711
77
Japan
Western capitalists banked on China, moving factories wholesale from America, Europe, and now Japan and Korea, to China, which allowed China's meteoric rise, both economically, but also as a copy-cat production state. Then, when those copycats come back to the border, and after already destroying the entire manufacturing base of the West, the West then demonises the detritus of its own short term money grubbing as if it has the moral high ground.

It is all so tiresome.
 

Kebabselector

macrumors 68030
May 25, 2007
2,938
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Birmingham, UK
They were all about to be listed on Facebook marketplace. Amazing how many fakes there are with the Apple logo.
Was going to mention the same - the UK Facebook marketplace is full of them. Some will describe them as copies, most are trying to pass them off as Apple products.
 

PhillyGuy72

macrumors 68030
Sep 13, 2014
2,652
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Philadelphia, PA USA
I see these similar "Pods" at Marshalls or TJ Maxx, even Staples near the checkout with different names.

The flea markets around Philly..I would mess with the shady vendors that are selling clear counterfeits of AirPods - Pro (Beats, Bose). Selling them for 80-100 bucks and they claim "good deal, real Apple...I'll sell them to you for $50" (yeah...sure)
 

theluggage

macrumors 603
Jul 29, 2011
6,311
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Are they really fake or just cheap junk [very likely], since they're not packaged or named in any way to "dupe" any real potential AirPods buyer

Depends on your definition of "fake" - not a legal term of art AFAIK. The official charge is "in violation of CBP trademark and copyright codes". They pretty clearly say "Elite Pods" and not "AirPods" on the box, and it looks like they are grey rather than white - they're not going to fool anybody. I'd say "cheap copy" and reserve "fake" or "counterfeit" for items being passed off as the real thing.

Apple are entitled to enforce their legally-protected designs, but maybe that should be a job for the civil courts, at Apple's expense, and customs/border protection shouldn't be making judgements on those issues...?
 

wanha

macrumors 6502a
Oct 30, 2020
535
1,219
Western capitalists banked on China, moving factories wholesale from America, Europe, and now Japan and Korea, to China, which allowed China's meteoric rise, both economically, but also as a copy-cat production state. Then, when those copycats come back to the border, and after already destroying the entire manufacturing base of the West, the West then demonises the detritus of its own short term money grubbing as if it has the moral high ground.

It is all so tiresome.
Grab yourself a cup, there's plenty of greed to go around on all sides.
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,881
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In between a rock and a hard place

They were all about to be listed on Facebook marketplace. Amazing how many fakes there are with the Apple logo.
There are a lot of fakes. These particular buds didn't have an Apple logo though. The CBP judged them fake by shape and design, not Apple branding.
Apple are entitled to enforce their legally-protected designs, but maybe that should be a job for the civil courts, at Apple's expense, and customs/border protection shouldn't be making judgements on those issues...?
Agreed. The CBP shouldn't be making the determination since they've demonstrated they're basically guessing. Using the same "configuration trademark" law, they seized legit OnePlus earbuds late last year. They obviously weren't counterfeit AirPods, but the CBP doubled down refused to admit they made a mistake.
 

mjs916

macrumors regular
Apr 1, 2018
227
223
Sacramento, CA
Small correction. The seized items weren't worth $7 million. Customs said the items would have been worth $7 million if they were genuine AirPods. These weren't genuine, and would have most likely sold for a fraction of the price of genuine AirPods. What Customs seized was probably worth no more than half a million street value imo. $7 million just makes for a better headline.

Bigger correction. The items were not found to include Apple logos. The press release stated:
"Apple has configuration trademarks on their AirPods and has recorded those trademarks with the CBP. Furthermore, a company does not have to put the "Apple" wordmark or design on their products to violate these trademarks. In this instance, further inspection of the earbuds revealed that their shape and design replicated the protected Apple configuration."

Apple logos weren't found on the earbuds.
My guess is they say the claimed value of the legal product because that amount that can be claimed as damages.

If I buy 2 pairs of Elite Pods, which completely rip off Apple’s design, Apple has potentially “lost” two sales of genuine AirPods. The selling price of the Elite Pods doesn’t factor in. They are worth 7 million in, as my father might call it, “AirPods money”.
 
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JKAussieSkater

macrumors regular
Mar 13, 2009
229
339
Tokyo, Japan
Is it a crime to produce and sell copycat devices with different names? Or is it a crime that it comes from China?

This seems beyond the scope of what Customs border officers should be paid to do… and frankly, seems like a crime to intervene in what must have been a valid, non-harmful, business transaction: ① Buy goods ② Send goods to customer ③ Customer receives goods. The customer—presumably an American—is unable to receive their goods.

These goods aren't drugs or weapons. I think the US Customs border officials need to change their policies.
 
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mjs916

macrumors regular
Apr 1, 2018
227
223
Sacramento, CA
Is it a crime to produce and sell copycat devices with different names? Or is it a crime that it comes from China?

This seems beyond the scope of what Customs border officers should be paid to do… and frankly, seems like a crime to intervene in what must have been a valid, non-harmful, business transaction: ① Buy goods ② Send goods to customer ③ Customer receives goods. The customer—presumably an American—is unable to receive their goods.

These goods aren't drugs or weapons. I think the US Customs border officials need to change their policies.
It is illegal to sell copyright infringing fakes. Especially on the home turf of the producing company where the law is the strongest. The eventual individual buyer gets hosed on their investment but no legal consequences and those transactions probably didn’t even happen yet. These were probably going to a reseller.

On one level, consumers MIGHT think its the real deal and thus have been defrauded (not likely here as, the packaging is completely different), on the other Apple is affected which also affects Uncle Sam.

it’s not a crime that it comes from China btw. Other countries have companies doing this too, but China is the manufacturing powerhouse and routinely seem to use that to their advantage by borrowing tech from companies that use them to build their products to them replicate those products for less. So maybe for Uncle Sam it could be personal, but I think it’s just the law and Customs are simply doing their job.
 
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theluggage

macrumors 603
Jul 29, 2011
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If I buy 2 pairs of Elite Pods, which completely rip off Apple’s design, Apple has potentially “lost” two sales of genuine AirPods. The selling price of the Elite Pods doesn’t factor in. They are worth 7 million in, as my father might call it, “AirPods money”.

Yes, that's what Apple's lawyers would like you to think... It's nonsense of course - the majority of people who buy cheap knock-off "pod-style earpieces" have no intention whatsoever of ever paying 10x as much for genuine Airpods. Even if they were being passed off as genuine and sold close to full price, the only people losing out would be the customers who bought them - who'd know to buy the genuine article next time (unless the knockoffs are actually good products - which is a fairly remote possibility).

I have no problem with Apple enforcing their copyrights and patents through the courts - but this ridiculous talking-up of the level of damages is purely for the benefit of the lawyers, and part of lobbying the authorities to introduce disproportionate enforcement measures and waste public resources doing big businesses' legal work for them.
 

ApfelKuchen

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Aug 28, 2012
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So they're imported as "Elite Pods" to (hopefully) get past CBP, and then are repackaged afterwards as "AirPods."

Sure, some people will pay $50 for $250 items and would have every expectation that they're fakes. Others will pay $50 less than Apple's list price and think they got a bargain on the real thing.

And then there's what happens if they don't work exactly like AirPods should (and there's every expectation is that at least some features will not work right). The buyer brings them to Apple for warranty service, Apple (perhaps) detects the fakes and denies service. The buyers are out whatever they paid because, let's face it, the chances that whoever sold them will provide refunds or replacements are pretty slim.

It may be hard to feel much sympathy for a big, wealthy corporation, and maybe it's hard to feel much sympathy for someone who buys an obvious fake at a low price, but the real victims are going to be consumers who spend their hard-earned money on something that seems to be the real thing.
 
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Seanm87

macrumors 68000
Oct 10, 2014
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Christ just buy real ones. If you can afford an iPhone then you can afford these!
 

LordVic

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Sep 7, 2011
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if the photo is to believed as the seized products, than this seizure is suspect and likely just Apple throwing their abusive weight to get the US Government to give them a leg up in the USA.


There's NO Apple or Apple like logo on the boxes. You cannot claim these are being advertised as "fake" Airpods if at no point are they claiming to be Apple's, nor Airpods.

These are clearly a knock off no name attempt to sell similar devices. But there's no copyright in similarity of design of a plastic case and headphones.

And that's a problem here. Apple shouldn't be able to use the government power to restrict or limit competition in the space. in the case here, unless they have evidence that these would be removed from their "elite pods" packaging and resold in real Apple packaging, These aren't "fakes". they're just aknock off product. there is nothing illegal about knock off products that warrant ANY seizure.

This isn't the first time Apple's abused local governments to seize "fake" products they don't want to compete with though.
 
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