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UPDATED: Apple moves to yank counterfeit white iPhones from eBay

The color that will not die

By John Cox on Tue, 11/16/10 - 11:56am.

How much would you pay for white?

Apple's complaints are causing eBay to delist so-called white iPhones being offered on its auction Website.

The move was reported by the Mac techsite, 9to5Mac.com, which reproduced the delisting notice from eBay to an unidentified eBay seller. The story also included a screen shot of the original listing, which identified the item as an "Apple iPhone WHITE 16GB (Converted) Bumper & More."

The official eBay notice says "Your item was removed because of a request we received from Apple, Inc., a member of our Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO), asking us to remove the item for [the following reason]: - Item(s) is a counterfeit product which infringes the trademark owner’s rights."

As most of the sentient world knows, Apple is not yet selling the white model of the iPhone, due to unspecified manufacturing challenges by its suppliers. Yet this listing, which takes a black, used iPhone 4 and "converts" it to white (though how isn't specified), had apparently received four bids, the last reaching $560.

[UPDATE 11-18: A reader in comments provided a link to WhiteiPhoneNow, a Website that offers a white iPhone conversion kit, with parts purportedly from Apple's Taiwan-based iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn. For $135, you can get just the back panel; for $169, you can get the front panel and new homebutton; and for $279, you can get the whole enchilada. But removing the original black case apparently voids Apple's warranty.

[The New York Observer reports that the Website is the brainchild of 17-year-old Queens, New York, high school senior, Fei Lam. Lam knows someone who knows someone in Foxconn, and claims he was able to get original parts, though exactly how isn't disclosed in the story. Lam says he's sold $130,000 worth of white parts in about six months.

[Lam tells the Observer that earlier this week, he received a letter from a private investigation firm accusing him of dealing in stolen goods. "I got an email from a private investigator accusing me of selling stolen goods, which I'm 100 percent sure is not the case," Lam says. "They are some kind of anti-counterfeit/trademark firm, which sounds ridiculous, similar to what Apple is bringing up to remove White iPhone 4 Listings on eBay. I don't know how this legal stuff works."

[But he probably watched the movie "The Social Network", about the creation of Facebook by a nerd not much older than himself, and the resulting pitfalls of not knowing "how this legal stuff works." So Lam's doing what every teenage "startup entrepreneur" should: hire a lawyer.]

Which is a bit mind-boggling. The seller can't be replacing the phone's case. [UPDATE: in fact, with the WhiteiPhoneNow kit, this is exactly what's happening.] So he, or she, has to be applying some kind of paint or adhesive-backed white covering. You could do that yourself with your own iPhone for a lot less than $560.00; in fact for probably less than $5.60. And if you used a razor and that sticky, white first-aid tape, you create your own bumper at the same time.

[I still find this mind-boggling. Even if you believe Lam has legally obtained original Foxconn parts, you pay for the original black iPhone 4, currently $199 for 16-GB model and $299 for the 32BG model at AT&T, and then pay $279 for just a new outer casing? You have to really love white....]

What would Herman Melville say? Find out, by reading the 21st century version of "iMoby: the hunt for the great white iPhone."