Fuse Chicken takes on Amazon over counterfeit charging cables

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Here at Apple World Today, and at TUAW before that, I've been a fan of Fuse Chicken. The company is a fast-growing design house / accessory manufacturer out of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio that first came to my notice when it set up a Kickstarter campaign for the Bobine -- an iPhone Charging dock that used a unique metal-clad flexible sheath around a USB - Lightning cable to support the phone and charge it. That design is what's behind a lawsuit filed by Fuse Chicken against Amazon as the result of the online retailer mixing counterfeit cables in with real product.

Fuse Chicken started selling products on Amazon in 2013, then noticed the alleged fakes being sold as "genuine Fuse Chicken" in November 2016. When Amazon.com received product for sale and distribution, the genuine products from Fuse Chicken were co-mingled with fakes from other sources. 

“Defendant’s practice of co-mingling inventory, regardless of source, results in consumers being shipped product that was supplied by an entity other than the seller from which the consumer purchased the product,” says the lawsuit (embedded later in this story).

Fuse Chicken complained to Amazon through its assigned business development manager, but the complaints have not been resolved. This May, Fuse Chicken's legal counsel sent a ten page cease-and-desist letter to Amazon.com...with no resolution at this point. The alleged infringement has so far caused damages exceeding $75,000.

It's not just that counterfeit charging cables are being sold by Amazon; Fuse Chicken has filed a "Complaint for Damages and Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" citing federal trademark infringement, false declaration of origin/unfair competition or misleading advertising, copyright infringement, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and "tortious interference with business expectancy." Whew! 

I talked with Jon Fawcett, the CEO of Fuse Chicken, who said that:

We had serial number stickers printed a few months ago and back-filled 60,000 pieces of inventory to roll out serialization immediately to combat this problem. We’ve now just started to laser etch a serial number directly on the side of the USB metal so we aren’t even relying on a sticker that a user could forget about in the package. This helps cut our costs from replacing fakes but does’t help with the bad reputation the cheap fakes cause when they break.

This isn't the first time that Amazon has been caught selling counterfeit products. There have been well-documented cases where Amazon has sold "Genuine Apple" Lightning cables that were bogus and in some situations actually dangerous. I ordered a RØDE Podcaster microphone from Amazon that failed about six months after I purchased it. When I checked with RØDE on getting a repair or replacement, I found that they wouldn't provide any service to people who had purchased what they assumed were genuine RØDE products on Amazon.com because the products were actually counterfeits.

A photo of one product Amazon sold Fuse Chicken CEO Jon Fawcett (box on left) sitting next to the actual product (on right) which is the Amazon page he ordered from.

A photo of one product Amazon sold Fuse Chicken CEO Jon Fawcett (box on left) sitting next to the actual product (on right) which is the Amazon page he ordered from.

So what's the best way to ensure that you're receiving genuine products? Buy them directly from the manufacturer -- in this case Fuse Chicken -- or from a distributor that the manufacturer trusts. Until Amazon can prove that it's sourcing products only from the actual manufacturer, buyers should definitely beware.