The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and both legitimate retailers and cybercriminals are looking to take advantage of this year’s boost in online commerce. With its popular design and high demand, Apple’s AirPods are a prime target for merchants engaged in intellectual property violations. More than a quarter of suspected IP-infringing merchants LegitScript recently identified were Apple-related. Of those, a significant portion posed BRAM- and GBPP-level risk.
Merchants engaged in IP infringement can be complex to evaluate because most of the products with violative design lack overt replica marketing. LegitScript has reported merchants as high risk for IP violations when their seemingly non-genuine products are marketed as Apple products or with Apple-specific trademarks or logos. Our analysts’ reporting on these products is informed by Apple’s trade dress guidelines: “[...] It can be the appearance of a product or its packaging, including size, shape, color, texture, graphics, and appearance (e.g, retail store or website).” Most of the AirPods IP violations LegitScript recently identified were merchants offering products similar in form, design, and appearance to AirPods. Significantly fewer merchants appeared to be offering products marketed with Apple-specific language or logos.
LegitScript analysts have identified certain risk factors and marketing techniques employed by merchants offering wireless earphones that may violate Apple trademarks. Similar product names can indicate that a product is problematic. Common examples include Pods, Blvck, Colorpods, Onyxpods, Blackpods, or Whitepods.
WhitePods sold on an e-commerce platform bear striking resemblance in name and form to AirPods and may violate Apple’s trademarks.
Also, marketing earphones that utilize similar technology or hardware can be a risk indicator for possible IP violations; examples include keywords such as i9s TWS, i7s TWS, or H1 Chip.
Of merchants recently reported for Apple IP-infringement risk, about 13% rose to LegitScript’s standard for BRAM- and GBPP-level risk. For LegitScript to report a merchant for this level of risk, the merchant must explicitly market their products with terms such as “UA” (unauthorized authentic), "clone" or "replica" (while using a trademarked Apple logo or design), or "counterfeit." Other common keywords that denote replicas refer to the quality of counterfeit products, including AAAA, AAA+, and 1:1. Such language may be present on the merchant’s website, embedded as website metadata, or on a social media page the merchant maintains.
Merchants frequently obfuscate the true nature of their products or services, attempting to pass off their violative products with more ambiguous marketing language. These merchants will use descriptions such as, “performs as well as the original,” or highlight customer reviews such as, “I was pleasantly surprised the battery lasts as long as the more expensive model.”
Recent card brand scrutiny surrounding Apple products indicates that products mimicking the AirPods form factor pose significant IP risk. Using intelligence gathered from takedown requests, IP enforcement actions, and recent card brand notifications, LegitScript persistently searches for merchants presenting IP-infringement risk of Apple products and other in-demand items.
Want to learn more about protecting yourself against IP-infringing merchants? Download LegitScript's free IP Infringement guide.
Story by Colby Wiggins and Laura Scott