US Customs and Border Protection officials have seized 2000 pairs of wireless headphones it thought were counterfeit Apple AirPods, but were actually a different product from a competing company.
Chinese tech company OnePlus is known for their value-packed but hard to get smartphones, and recently introduced the OnePlus Buds wireless earbuds to complement its devices and ostensibly try and chip away at Apple’s dominant share of the market.
The company is selling the buds at $US79 ($A108), making the seized shipment worth $US158,000 ($A216,000).
The buds sure do look a lot like Apple’s AirPods, which were mocked when they first came out but are now arguably the quintessential design, easily recognised and frequently imitated, sometimes without even playing any sound.
OnePlus apparently took its imitation a little too far however, so much so that US customs officers thought they were importing counterfeits into the country.
“CBP Officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis,” CBP’s New York director of field operations Troy Miller said following the August 31 seizure.
“The interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.”
Twitter users were quick to point out the mistake when the department reported the seizure on social media, but there’s been no retraction from Customs and Border Protection, which has in fact doubled down.
RELATED: Apple’s ‘terrifying’ move over logo
In a statement to US media outlets, the department said it seized the buds because they violate copyright.
“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 … 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.”
OnePlus made another joke on its Twitter page but it’s probably not laughing about losing $216,000 worth of stock and potentially having to go through the courts to get it back.
It was also somewhat embarrassing for the company to have its products officially declared a rip-off, as many sought to point out on Twitter.
Others thought the seizure shouldn’t have been made.