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US customs officers at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport seized what they called “2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods” shipped from Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

US Customs seizes ‘counterfeit’ Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, but photos show boxes of OnePlus Buds

  • US Customs and Border Protection said US$398,000 worth of knock-off Apple wireless earbuds were intercepted at a New York airport
  • A OnePlus tweet to US authorities asks for seized products to be returned

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Friday that it seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple earbuds shipped from Hong Kong. But photos it provided show they could actually be real products from OnePlus, a legitimate Chinese gadget brand.

The boxes of the earbuds clearly indicate that they are OnePlus Buds, as first reported by American tech news outlet The Verge. OnePlus is a Shenzhen-based smartphone brand owned by BBK Electronics, which also owns Oppo and Vivo. The company’s new earbuds are currently available in the US on the OnePlus website for US$79.

Despite the OnePlus branding, US customs officials seemed to believe the earbuds were counterfeits of Apple’s AirPods. An announcement posted on the CBP website said the shipments, destined for the state of Nevada, were intercepted at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“CBP Officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis,” a field operations director was quoted as saying. He added that the operation was “a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.”

Apple AirPods are displayed during a media event in San Francisco on September 7, 2016. Photo: Reuters

On Tuesday, a CBP spokesman said that the earbuds were seized because they appeared to violate Apple’s configuration trademark.

“CBP’s seizure of the earbuds in question is unrelated to the images or language on the box,” he said in an email. “A company does not have to put an ‘Apple’ word mark 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 seems to have confirmed that the products were theirs. In response to the CPB’s tweet announcing the seizure, OnePlus USA tweeted, “Hey, give those back!”

Ever since Apple launched the original AirPods in 2016, different brands have released comparable wireless earbuds in similar shapes and sizes. Both AirPods and OnePlus Buds, for instance, are available in white and come with a small charging case. The OnePlus Buds were launched in July alongside its budget Nord smartphone.
OnePlus launched its first wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds on July 27. Photo: Handout

OnePlus, founded in 2013, is one of the few Chinese smartphone brands to have found a loyal following in the US. The brand is best known for delivering high-powered handsets for relatively cheap prices.