US Customs is seizing refurbished Apple batteries and calling them "counterfeits"


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/20/louis-rossman.html


#2

I am sure I have a very small sample, but the only Apple computers I ever see are props in movies.


#3

Refurbished goods can certainly be considered counterfeit under US trademark law. It depends upon the circumstances of the alteration. See Rolex v. Meece, 158 F.3d 816 (5th Cir. 1998).

Apple would likely make the argument that the refurbishment process altered the batteries significantly, possibly raising the risk of failure and damage. As such, Apple has a vested interest in ensuring that such altered goods do not bear its trademark.

Lastly, any sympathy for Rossmann should be dispelled by the fact that this could all have easily been avoided if he had simply obliterated the trademarks from the altered and imported goods.


#4

With his telekinesis?

Here’s a thought: maybe he could just call them “refurbished.”


#5

No, by communicating with the seller. It’s a fairly simple process.


#6

The batteries were not even in his possession yet.

Sounds like it would be a lot quicker, cheaper and easier to just call his refurbishment, “refurbishment.”


#7

YES. US trademark law is incredibly stupid on this. Glad you agree.


#8

Sure, whatevs :roll_eyes:


#9

If your idea of an argument worth reading is, “well that’s current law,” then yes, indeed:


#10

The thing is already damaged and failed. That’s why the refurbishment is necessary in the first place. Maybe Apple could just refuse to fix it if the refurbishment fails. Oh, wait. They are already doing that.


#11

Well, there is nothing stupid on that. If that battery blows up because the refurbishment was done poorly, it will be Apple’s reputation at stake. Also the client could be potentially misled into thinking they have an original Apple part (I am sure Louis doesn’t do that but Apple cannot know it).

The battery isn’t original anymore, it has been modified (the chemical guts were certainly replaced), so that’s a textbook trademark violation. And because of the way the trademark law works, Apple must defend their trademark or they could lose it.

I hate to say it but Apple is not being the ass here - it was Louis has only himself to blame if he didn’t ask for the logos to be removed from the batteries. If the batteries were shipped branded by the logo of the company that has re-manufactured them, there would be no problem whatsoever. It is not like CBP (or customs in general, both in the US and elsewhere) have never seized counterfeit items before.


#12

Why? Simple question. People know it was third party refurbished.

THAT would be trademark infringement. But that didn’t happen here. I could stab people with kitchen knives, in fact stabbings happen all the time. Is that a rational legal basis for a blanket prohibition on making sushi or peeling an apple? Coulda, shoulda, woulda doesn’t cut it.


#13

Easy remedy: call the refurbishment a “refurbishment.”


#14

This is why I definitively broke with Apple last January, after using their products since the Apple Lisa. (I even had a Quicktake camera).


#15

Sure but the problem is not that the battery was fixed but that the altered battery carried Apple’s trademarks. Apple didn’t complain about the batteries being delivered to Louis or him buying them - they complain that they carry Apple’s logo and thus are considered counterfeit (they aren’t Apple product anymore). Big difference.


#16

The purpose of trademark law is to protect the consumer from confusion. No confusion? No trademark law violation.


#17

You can call it whatever you want but that still doesn’t give you the right to use someone else’s trademark on it. You could do that only if you had a contract with the original manufacturer and an explicit permission for doing so. That’s the problem, not that the batteries were refurbished.


#18

If I’m a writer and I reveal that I write all my books with a Ticonderoga pencil I’m violating their trademark?

Edit:

Let’s make it a Parker Jotter, but I use Schmidt rollerball refills in it.

Edit:

Wait. This:

I use a Sailor fountain pen but I make my own ink. And does that pen ever suck to use because of it. But I write all my books with it. When you buy one of my books you are getting a book written with a genuine Sailor fountain pen!


#19

Finally, someone gets it.


#20

THAT would be trademark infringement. But that didn’t happen here.

Sorry but that’s not how a trademark works. Trademark infringement is not just when you actually mislead/confuse people into thinking that they have something else than you have actually sold them.

“Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark (or a substantially similar mark) on competing or related goods and services.”

There is no conditioning on it on actually misleading people. The use of the mark is enough. See here:
https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/is-it-trademark-infringement

I could stab people with kitchen knives, in fact stabbings happen all the time. Is that a rational legal basis for a blanket prohibition on making sushi or peeling an apple? Coulda, shoulda, woulda doesn’t cut it.

That’s completely irrelevant. Read up on how trademark law actually works.