Apple sues (and settles with?) teenager who sold white iPhone 4 conversion kits

Apple this week sued, and perhaps even settled with a 17 year old kid from New York City who made well over $100,000 by selling white iPhone 4 parts online

This past April, Apple finally released the white model iPhone 4 after a 10 month delay attributed to a host of problems. But for some, the allure of a white iPhone 4 was too great.

This past winter,  an enterprising 17 year old teenager named Fei Lam from Queens, New York decided to contact Foxconn directly and order white iPhone 4 parts - front and back plates to be specific.

"I knew a guy from a few years back that had somewhat of a relationship with folks in Foxconn," Lam explained at the time. Of course, it also helped that Lam speaks fluent Chinese.

So what Lam did was order white iPhone 4 parts in bulk and create a website called WhiteiPhone4Now.com where he sold white iPhone 4 conversion kits. Visitors to the website could order said parts for anywhere between $135 and $279.

The site quickly took off and it wasn't  long before Lam was rolling in dough, to the tune of $130,000 to be exact. Not too long after, Lam was contacted by a private investigator (perhaps working for Apple) who told him he was trafficking in stolen goods. Following that, Lam hired a lawyer who subsequently relayed that Apple was now handling the matter internally.

And now, a few months later, Apple has finally filed a lawsuit against both Lam and his parents. Originally discovered by MacRumors, the suit alleges infringement and dilution of trademarks. Specifically, Apple claims that the white iPhone 4 parts distributed by Lam created customer confusion as to whether or not the "pre-release" white iPhone 4s were actually authorized Apple products. Further, Apple alleged that Lam engaged in deceptive practices via his conversion kit sales. Interestingly enough, though, Apple concurrently filed a voluntary dismissal of said lawsuit, prompting some to speculate that a settlement had been reached - though Apple does maintain the right to re-initiate the lawsuit in the future.

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.

In its initial filing with the court, Apple demanded a permanent injunction to prevent Lam from selling any more iPhone parts along with attorney fees and punitive damages. In light of Apple's request for dismissal, it remains unclear what, if anything, Apple ended up obtaining from Lam and his parents.

Given that Lam is a minor, it wouldn't surprise us if Apple, after giving the teenager a good scare, decided to withdraw its initial suit and not pursue things further. At the end of the day, Apple was able to secure its trademark, send a clear message that it won't tolerate this kind of tomfoolery, and most likely wants to avoid the bad press that would accompany actively litigating against a 17 year old kid.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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