Apple sues teen who sold white iPhone 4 conversion kits

White iPhone 4s are now being sold by Apple after months of delays caused by a few difficulties in manufacturing the ivory white devices, something Apple admitted to last month. Yet there are a few white iPhone 4s spotted in the wild, thanks to a few determined users who were comfortable with allowing a third-party to pull apart their iPhone and install a conversion kit for a fee. Or they could try the task themselves by ordering the conversion kits.

Remember 17-year-old Fei Lam from New York City? He managed to make a pretty buck - about $40,000 last November - by selling said white iPhone 4 conversion kits via the now-defunct whiteiphone4now site. That's right, defunct - shortly after his site attracted attention from the media, a private investigator accused him of trafficking stolen goods. The site disappeared soon after.

But on the eve of a wave of official white iPhone 4s, Apple is ensuring no one else can do what Lam did in securing unauthorized parts from Foxconn by filing a lawsuit against Lam and his family, then a voluntary dismissal right after.

As reported by MacRumors, the lawsuit against Lam and his parents on Wednesday, claiming trademark infringement and dilution of its trademarks. The latter claim caused issues for Lam when custom agents in Hong Kong held up some of his conversion kit shipments over said trademark issues. Lam's parents were included as they assisted their son's activities under their supervision. According to the lawsuit:

Defendent Lam willfully and without authorization has used Apple's trademarks in connection with the sale of his "White iPhone 4 Conversion Kits," which among other things included white front and back panels with Apple's logo and "iPhone" trademarks that are used in connection with the promotion and sale of Apple's well known iPhone 4 handheld mobile digital electronic devices. Defendant at all times knew that Apple never has authorized the sale of white panels for its iPhone 4 mobile devices, and that he obtained these panels from sources that were not authorized by Apple or any of its suppliers to sell them.

The suit initially sought a permanent injunction which would force Lam to hand over profits from the conversion kits, reimbursement from the lawsuit, and to be barred from any future sales of conversion kits. As the suit against Lam was dropped soon after, and a possible settlement reached, this lawsuit may have only served to warn others of attempting to sell unauthorized modifications or accessories with an Apple logo on them. It is not known how much Lam may have paid to Apple in settling this lawsuit.

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I wonder what the settlement was.

People people, they are right to sue Lam. It's unfortunate for him because it was a great buisiness idea, but you really can't argue when he was selling White iPhone cases which included Apples trademark logo's.
It would be wrong of Apple to try and sue him if he manufactured his own White Cases (which they would never do).
Just to note, Ajua, they've probably done they're research and theres only so much that is given to the media. They made a settlement which really suggests that both parties knew what was going on.

Lol its really funny how they say he totally deserve it, they defend apple like shareholders or like if they sue this kid they will get more money, apple is one of the biggest thieves in the world I think is time for a little payback, and with they lawyers they can sue anyone who eats a real apple cuz it resemble their logo

They would need to prove that the kid had knowledge about the origin of the parts.
If I buy something from a well known manufacturer to resell it, without knowing if the parts are stolen, authorized or whatever I shouldn't be sued as long as I don't make custom changes to the parts and logos or names on them.

They should investigate how this kid was able to get hold of the parts in question and see if Foxconn or someone inside sold them without authorization.

hahaha, Apple suing someone because they couldnt do what he did?...or at least not for a while.

Typical Apple again...someone does something you can, sue...someone starts to compete with you...sue...someone has something that looks a little like yours...sue.

techbeck said,
hahaha, Apple suing someone because they couldnt do what he did?...or at least not for a while.

Typical Apple again...someone does something you can, sue...someone starts to compete with you...sue...someone has something that looks a little like yours...sue.

Nah, typical ignorant comment from you.

He sold defective parts that he shouldn't have with Apple's logo on it. Any other company in the world would sue him too.

Hey, let me know when you start a company. I'm interested to see what you do when I start infringing on your brand.

I completely agree, however if I purchased Ford spare parts with the Ford logo and resold them it would be legal - which is effectively what the 17 year old did as he would have no way of knowing that Foxconn (as the manufacturer) were not legally allowed to sell the parts.

If I made a custom panel with a Ford badge on it for my Ford and started selling them, would i be sued?
I don't think so.
The computer world is crazy with it's licensing you to use a product you buy instead of selling it to you, and the excessively arrogant and petty jealousy used by these mega global corporations to snatch larger and larger pieces of the mega-profits pie. It's greed pure and simple and it stifles free enterprise as this case shows. I moved to Mac because I was sick of Microsoft's arrogance and contempt for the user, now Apple's the same or worse. Makes me want to move to Linux now.

whyme said,
If I made a custom panel with a Ford badge on it for my Ford and started selling them, would i be sued?
I don't think so.

Why should you be allowed to sell product with a company logo on it? How much money did you put into the brand to make it was it is? Nothing. Yea, you would probably be sued and you would deserve it.

speedstr3789 said,

Why should you be allowed to sell product with a company logo on it? How much money did you put into the brand to make it was it is? Nothing. Yea, you would probably be sued and you would deserve it.

This kid didn't make them; he received them from Foxconn. If anything Apple should be going after them but really, how is this so different from people selling name brand accessories on eBay?

whyme said,
If I made a custom panel with a Ford badge on it for my Ford and started selling them, would i be sued?
I don't think so.
The computer world is crazy with it's licensing you to use a product you buy instead of selling it to you, and the excessively arrogant and petty jealousy used by these mega global corporations to snatch larger and larger pieces of the mega-profits pie. It's greed pure and simple and it stifles free enterprise as this case shows. I moved to Mac because I was sick of Microsoft's arrogance and contempt for the user, now Apple's the same or worse. Makes me want to move to Linux now.

You cannot use a trademark protected logo without the owner's permission except in documentary or parody usages. There are some other exceptions, but those are the only two I remember.

whyme said,
If I made a custom panel with a Ford badge on it for my Ford and started selling them, would i be sued?
I don't think so.

Yes, as speedstr3789 said, you would be sued, and you would deserve it. You would be violating Ford's trademark. A lot of people don't seem to understand that around here. Companies are legally REQUIRED to protect their trademarks in order to keep them. They don't have a choice in the matter. If someone starts selling wheel covers (or any other item) with the Ford logo on them without Ford's permission, and Ford doesn't sue them for it, then Ford can actually lose the tradmark. Do some research on Xerox and trademark dilution to learn a little bit about it.

Why do you think that toy companies need the permission of car companies in order to produce toys of a specific model car? Look on the package of any Hot Wheels car (at least one that represents a real car model) or any recent Transformers toy based on a real car, and you'll see a statement that they licensed the trademarks from the car maker.

The same kind of thing applies to sports teams. Try selling stuff with the name and logo of your favorite sports team on it without paying the trademark owners for the license, and see how long it takes before you get sued.

Someone was selling conversion kits on Neobay here.. was it that he got these from Foxconn or just the fact they were white conversion kits.

there is also a kit available that helps to conceal the back facing camera so that the iPhone can be used in sensitive areas.

Why does he deserve it? Surely everyone who sells non apple cases also deserve the same treament in that case. If the people want to open up their phone and put their own kit on it, I don't see why this is an issue considering it's THEIR phone!

I'm up for one of those transparent cases but too fiddly

Dan~ said,
Why does he deserve it? Surely everyone who sells non apple cases also deserve the same treament in that case. If the people want to open up their phone and put their own kit on it, I don't see why this is an issue considering it's THEIR phone!

I'm up for one of those transparent cases but too fiddly


Ever notice that the vast majority of cases don't use the Apple logo on them? That (along with his unauthorized used of the iPhone name) is a large part of the trademark case against him. There is also the fact that he bought what amounts to stolen property from Foxconn (the parts to make the kits), since Apple did not authorize Foxconn to sell him those parts.
Had this kid made the parts himself, and not used the Apple logo or iPhone name on them, then he probably wouldn't have gotten sued.

This is just absurd (And a great example of why more and more people are turning "anti-apple"...). I always liked Apple, and have owned several iPods and such, but they have turned me off so much with their arrogance and behavior in general that I would never even consider owning another one of their products... Steve Jobs should try, just for one day, to not act like a douche...

M_Lyons10 said,
This is just absurd (And a great example of why more and more people are turning "anti-apple"...). I always liked Apple, and have owned several iPods and such, but they have turned me off so much with their arrogance and behavior in general that I would never even consider owning another one of their products... Steve Jobs should try, just for one day, to not act like a douche...

Well, while I agree that this show is just ridiculous and pathetic I would also add that it seems that the cover sold carried the Apple logo which could give some leverage to the lawsuit against the FACTORY that produced and put them on the market not against someone buying and re-selling them. Unless of course Apple can prove that the kid was aware that the Cupertino company had not authorized the kit. Good luck trying to prove it.

I completely agree. Their brand is built on hype, and their policies are bugging me. Hence by purchase of a Dell to replace my MBP

Just vote with your wallet

They should go after the Manufacturers and not after a 17 years kid.

I bought , from China, a metal silver back with Apple's logo for my iPhone4.

The site is well known and sells all iPhone and other smart phones parts (you can actually build your own)

alexalex said,
They should go after the Manufacturers and not after a 17 years kid.

I bought , from China, a metal silver back with Apple's logo for my iPhone4.

The site is well known and sells all iPhone and other smart phones parts (you can actually build your own)


Very good point, although I'm sure they are going after the manufacturer and the guy.

alexalex said,
They should go after the Manufacturers and not after a 17 years kid.

I bought , from China, a metal silver back with Apple's logo for my iPhone4.

The site is well known and sells all iPhone and other smart phones parts (you can actually build your own)

Agreed; the fact that the kid could so easily acquire the parts tells one more about the lax security at FoxConn than anything regarding the kid.

McG said,

Very good point, although I'm sure they are going after the manufacturer and the guy.

I doubt it, Foxconn make loads of Apple stuff i dont think they will be suing Foxconn

Jenson said,

I doubt it, Foxconn make loads of Apple stuff i dont think they will be suing Foxconn

They are suing Samsung, which makes basically 80% of the chips used in the iPhone.

No actually he doesn't. Apple deserved what happened because they stalled with their BS excuses that the white version was more difficult to manufacture. no it isn't. A purple iPhone 4 wouldn't be any harder to make than the white or black versions. If they do this then they literally have to sue everyone who has ever sold parts to an iPhone online, such as replacement batteries, replacement screens from dead units (to replace shattered screens), etc. That also means replacement batteries or screens for iPods, macs, etc. Also I'm not going to hunt them down atm but engadget did a wonderful series of posts (i think the point they made) saying that it was highly likely that due to the way a modded iPhone would take pictures his replacement white parts could have been KIRF parts and not legit parts, therefore if apple cant prove they are 100% legit, they may not have a case.

Nexus- said,
No actually he doesn't. Apple deserved what happened because they stalled A purple iPhone 4 wouldn't be any harder to make than the white or black versions.

Weren't there dozens of reports from people who used this custom method that reported the same "light leak" issues that were holding up the white iPhone in the first place?

Nexus- said,
No actually he doesn't. Apple deserved what happened because they stalled with their BS excuses that the white version was more difficult to manufacture. no it isn't. A purple iPhone 4 wouldn't be any harder to make than the white or black versions. If they do this then they literally have to sue everyone who has ever sold parts to an iPhone online, such as replacement batteries, replacement screens from dead units (to replace shattered screens), etc. That also means replacement batteries or screens for iPods, macs, etc. Also I'm not going to hunt them down atm but engadget did a wonderful series of posts (i think the point they made) saying that it was highly likely that due to the way a modded iPhone would take pictures his replacement white parts could have been KIRF parts and not legit parts, therefore if apple cant prove they are 100% legit, they may not have a case.

Which is a complete load of crap - the issue was related to backlight leakage and inconsistencies between the faceplate and button, yes Steve Jobs is that anal when it comes to such details. So please, either learn the details of the issue or shut the heck up.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

Which is a complete load of crap - the issue was related to backlight leakage and inconsistencies between the faceplate and button, yes Steve Jobs is that anal when it comes to such details. So please, either learn the details of the issue or shut the heck up.

+ ∞

Nexus- said,
No actually he doesn't. Apple deserved what happened because they stalled with their BS excuses that the white version was more difficult to manufacture. no it isn't. A purple iPhone 4 wouldn't be any harder to make than the white or black versions. If they do this then they literally have to sue everyone who has ever sold parts to an iPhone online, such as replacement batteries, replacement screens from dead units (to replace shattered screens), etc. That also means replacement batteries or screens for iPods, macs, etc. Also I'm not going to hunt them down atm but engadget did a wonderful series of posts (i think the point they made) saying that it was highly likely that due to the way a modded iPhone would take pictures his replacement white parts could have been KIRF parts and not legit parts, therefore if apple cant prove they are 100% legit, they may not have a case.

The parts had the Apple logo on them. Slam-dunk case for them. Its only a matter of if the court feels sorry for the kid and lets him off easy.

I'm not taking a side here, yes, I agree Apple should have been quicker to make the white iPhone. But you can't see something with someone else's logo on it. You just can't.