Home / Technology / Counterfeiters are hungry for a share of Apple’s $ 16B AirPod market

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



These AirPods, displayed at the Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino, are genuine - but it's not always easy to spot the difference between genuine and counterfeit electronics.
Enlarge / These AirPods, displayed at the Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino, are genuine – but it’s not always easy to spot the difference between genuine and counterfeit electronics.

US Customs and Border Protection reports that so far in the financial year 2021 it has seized around 360,000 sets of wireless headphones, valued at an estimated $ 62.2 million. It is only nine months’ seizure – but there are already more than 290,000 sets worth 61.7 million dollars that were seized throughout the financial year 2020.

In such a major attack, CBP seized approximately 6,400 counterfeit AirPods and AirPods Pro in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 11th. If the seized items were genuine, their total Apple MSRP would have been about $ 1.3 million – but the five seized shipments were manifested at only $ 312 each. All five shipments were on their way to a single address in Brownsville, Texas.

Then again, maybe the feds don’t get it right. In September 2020, CBP in New York City seized a shipment of 2,000 devices with completely legitimate OnePlus earbuds en route to Nevada, claiming they were “fake AirPods.” When CBP was pressured about the error, it doubled down, saying that a company “does not need to put an” Apple “word mark or design on its products” to break the trademark law and add that importers “have many opportunities … to provide proof that their product does not infringe the relevant registered trademarks. ”

Not all counterfeiters target Apple, of course – well-known brands such as Sony, Jabra, Samsung and Bose have their own knockoff artists. But despite its prime brand position, Apple has the majority of the wireless earplug market. In 2020, Apple had 25% of the market share “smart personal sound” – almost tripled it to Samsung, the closest competitor. That market share increased to almost 109 million units – and according to the market analysis company Canalys 16 billion dollars or more in turnover.

About 80% of the world’s counterfeit consumer goods come from China, according to Craig Crosby of Counterfeit Report. At the end of 2016, Apple bought 100 supposedly Apple-made products on Amazon and found that 90% of them were counterfeits – despite the fact that they came directly from Amazon, not from third-party listings. In a subsequent lawsuit, Amazon notified Apple that counterfeit products were provided by Mobile Star, despite the widespread use of the Apple brand.

Although some of the counterfeit goods are obvious rip-offs, some require physical disassembly and expert product knowledge to identify. Reuse of stolen factory forms is common, and some fake AirPods correctly mimic the pairing process with iPhones and even display the correct Apple serial numbers.

Unfortunately, “similar appearance” does not mean “similar quality” – it is much harder to spot subordinate sound drivers and amplification circuits than a small colored or malformed chassis. Consumers should also be concerned about safety; Amazon product reviews of fake chargers often include stories of the fake parts overheating, smoldering or even burning directly during normal use.


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