Counterfeiters are hungry for a piece of Apple’s $16B AirPod market

Enlarge / These AirPods, displayed at the Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino, are genuine—but spotting the difference between real and counterfeit electronics isn’t always simple. (credit: SOPA Images via Getty)

US Customs and Border Protection reports that so far in fiscal year 2021, it has seized about 360,000 sets of wireless headphones, worth an estimated $62.2 million. That’s only nine months’ worth of seizures—but it’s already more than the 290,000 sets worth $61.7 million that were seized throughout fiscal year 2020.

In one such large seizure, CBP seized roughly 6,400 counterfeit AirPods and AirPods Pro in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 11th. If the seized goods had been genuine, their combined Apple MSRP would have been about $1.3 million—but the five seized shipments were manifested at only $312 each. All five shipments were headed for a single address in Brownsville, Texas.

Then again, the feds may not always get it right. In September 2020, CBP in New York City seized a 2,000 unit shipment of perfectly legitimate OnePlus earbuds headed for Nevada, claiming they were “counterfeit AirPods.” When pressed about the error, CBP doubled down, saying that a company “does not have to put an ‘Apple’ wordmark or design on their products” to violate trademark law and adding that importers “have many opportunities… to provide evidence that their product does not violate the relevant recorded trademarks.”

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