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US Customs won't release seized OnePlus Buds, say they violate Apple trademarks

Update: OnePlus approached this situation with a sense of humor at first, but it might have just gotten serious.

Published onSeptember 14, 2020

A picture of the OnePlus Buds true wireless earbuds (white) in the open charging case, which is standing erect against a black background.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

Updated, September 14, 2020 (04:23 PM ET): A story that seemed at first like a silly mistake involving US customs just got weirder. In an official statement, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) confirmed that it will not release the seized OnePlus Buds. It says that it appears OnePlus’ true wireless earbuds violate Apple’s trademarks connected to its industry-defining AirPods.

Here is the full statement delivered to Android Authority:

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.

It looks like OnePlus has a pretty big problem on its hands. We have not received any comment yet from the company.

Original article, September 14, 2020 (02:13 AM ET): We’ve seen numerous takes on true wireless earbuds in recent years, following in the footsteps of Apple’s own AirPods. Some companies have aped the look of Apple’s product a little too closely, and it looks like this may have had unintended consequences for OnePlus and its OnePlus Buds.

The US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued a press release late last week, announcing that it seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods at JFK Airport in New York City. The shipment was inbound from Hong Kong and the authority said they were valued at $398,000 “had they been genuine” AirPods.

The only problem is that images attached to the CBP announcement and subsequent tweet show that the seized earbuds are in fact OnePlus Buds, which are legitimate true wireless earbuds. Check out the announcement and manufacturer’s reaction below.

OnePlus buds seized

Hey, give those back! 🙃
— OnePlus USA (@OnePlus_USA) September 14, 2020

It’s a shame that the CBP didn’t realize OnePlus Buds were a legitimate product from a prominent brand, as a few seconds of Googling would’ve showed. But it perhaps highlights the issue of AirPod clones, suggesting that the average consumer might not be able to tell the difference when comparing the actual products side-by-side.

OnePlus isn’t the only guilty party in this regard, as several other prominent brands also offer true wireless earbuds that look very similar to Apple’s AirPods. So here’s hoping we see more original designs from all these companies in the future.

We’ve contacted the CBP for comment regarding the seizure, while also contacting OnePlus to find out more. We’ll update the article if/when the two get back to us.

Next: Apple AirPods Pro review — Third time really is the charm

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