Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Apple’s Trademark Exploit

GiovanH (via Hacker News):

Apple puts its logo on the devices it sells: not just the outer casing, but also each internal component. The vast majority of these logos are totally enclosed and invisible to the naked eye. This seems like a strange practice — especially since Apple doesn’t sell these parts separately — except it turns out to be part of a truly convoluted rules-lawyering exploit only a company like Apple could pull off and get away with.


Apple participates in CBP’s e-Recordation Program, a “service for trademark owners” where American rightsholders proactively re-register their US registered trademarks with CBP and pay regular fees to ensure special, stricter enforcement on the particular trademarks they request. In exchange, Apple gets to train law enforcement themselves; owners of registered marks can record webinars, and companies like Apple literally get to send their own staff to give Border Patrol in-person seminars on how to identify their products and what all they want counted as infringing.


Repair shop owner Jessa Jones purchased third-party iPhone screens for use in repair, but the shipment from China was seized by CBP.

The screens that were seized are “hybrid” parts: the screens are third-party, but use a few original Apple parts like a flex cable that connects the screen to the phone. That invisible, internal part is marked with an Apple logo, which is enough to let the CBP seize the entire shipment.

The parts aren’t being seized because they’re counterfeit. In fact, they’re demonstrably not counterfeit: the only reason an Apple logo is on a piece of a “third-party” component is because that piece is original OEM Apple hardware being legally re-sold[…]


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