Subscribe to Make Magazine Today!

Pt 10575-1

Apple vs Teenager Who Sold White iPhone 4 Conversion Kits

…New York City teenager Fei Lam, who had managed to sell $130,000 worth of white iPhone 4 parts in just a few months to customers eager to get their hands on a white iPhone 4 has Apple continued to delay the release of the official model. Lam claimed that he had developed a secondhand relationship with someone at Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn who had been supplying him with parts…

That’s pretty impressive for a kid. Worked in/around a supply chain of Apple’s, built a site and a small business very quickly – all based on pent up demand for a product that Apple delayed.

Apple requested a permanent injunction barring the Lams from any further sales, forfeiture of all profits from the sale of white iPhone 4 parts, reimbursement for expenses occurred in pursuing the case, and additional financial penalties. With the request for dismissal, however, it is unclear what Apple may have obtained from the Lams in a potential settlement.

Fei Lam if you’re out there, drop us a note!


  • http://twitter.com/dresilver andre silveira

    Woz has his back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716133997 Geoffrey Schaller

    I think part of the issue here is that he was skimming off of parts made for Apple under contract – it’s not that he made his own kit, it’s that he got them through a “leak” at Foxconn, where they were being made for Apple.

    It’s OK to make your own mod / kit, and I highly encourage this!  It’s another to skim off of someone else’s work and make a profit from it, with no innovation of your own.  From the text above, the latter is what happened.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716133997 Geoffrey Schaller

    I think part of the issue here is that he was skimming off of parts made for Apple under contract – it’s not that he made his own kit, it’s that he got them through a “leak” at Foxconn, where they were being made for Apple.

    It’s OK to make your own mod / kit, and I highly encourage this!  It’s another to skim off of someone else’s work and make a profit from it, with no innovation of your own.  From the text above, the latter is what happened.

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmkSICvhwcj5PUsJg1ZLmQLMoFMUeON--0 John

    Agreed.  These “kits” appear to be official Apple parts that he obtained illegally.  If nothing else his kits have the Apple logo which means he loses regardless. 

    • Anonymous

      @john:twitter that’s correct it seems, i want to know more about how a teenager was able to get all these parts, etc – sounds like an exciting story.

      • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmkSICvhwcj5PUsJg1ZLmQLMoFMUeON--0 John

        “- sounds like an exciting story. ”

        If only one of us was a writer/blogger/reporter…

        • Anonymous

          @john this is why i posted this in hopes of the kid sending us an email so we can interview him (please read the post)

    • http://twitter.com/Oshikiru Jonathan Slater

      Lam claimed that he had developed a secondhand relationship with someone at Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn who had been supplying him with parts

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmkSICvhwcj5PUsJg1ZLmQLMoFMUeON--0 John

    Agreed.  These “kits” appear to be official Apple parts that he obtained illegally.  If nothing else his kits have the Apple logo which means he loses regardless. 

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmkSICvhwcj5PUsJg1ZLmQLMoFMUeON--0 John

    Agreed.  These “kits” appear to be official Apple parts that he obtained illegally.  If nothing else his kits have the Apple logo which means he loses regardless. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FLVU66R7HFC4EC6JNFO3URGHUE Gabe Shackle

    Based on the information that he illegally obtained Apple trademarked parts he’s lucky to not be facing federal charges.  Making your own case and selling it = right on.  Selling illegally obtained, trademarked parts = jail time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FLVU66R7HFC4EC6JNFO3URGHUE Gabe Shackle

    Based on the information that he illegally obtained Apple trademarked parts he’s lucky to not be facing federal charges.  Making your own case and selling it = right on.  Selling illegally obtained, trademarked parts = jail time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA Alan

    Just because a big multinational corporation sues a tech-savvy sole propietorship doesn’t automatically mean the big multinational corporation is wrong, Phil. We don’t know the details of Lam’s “secondhand relationship with someone at … Foxconn,” but at best he made a gray-market deal for proprietary parts without the manufacturer’s permission. At worst, he might have been an accessory to theft. Either way, it sounds like Apple was right to sue.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA Alan

    Just because a big multinational corporation sues a tech-savvy sole propietorship doesn’t automatically mean the big multinational corporation is wrong, Phil. We don’t know the details of Lam’s “secondhand relationship with someone at … Foxconn,” but at best he made a gray-market deal for proprietary parts without the manufacturer’s permission. At worst, he might have been an accessory to theft. Either way, it sounds like Apple was right to sue.

    • Anonymous

      @yahoo-Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @yahoo-Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @yahoo-Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @yahoo-Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stacy-Devino/2412676 Stacy Devino

    Hmmm….Apple was holding off on the white iPhone was not because of actual supply issues (though they were claimed). It is a common thing for manufacturers to hold off on a color or small feature in order to release later and make the “same old” feel new again.

    If this was orchestrated by some group in China and did not involve a young American teen we probably wouldn’t hear about it, much less care. If the kid sold purple ones, it would have likely been a simple C&D. The breaking the “law of the land” is something that he should and has paid for. Meh, the law is the law even if it is over a stupid color change. When I get a speeding ticket for going 5mph over, I still think the guy was a jerk for hanging at the bottom of the hill where the speed changed down 15mph, but at the other end trying to defend yourself in court when he used a laser system never goes your way. 

    This is not a case like how people were being threatened by Apple over software modifications. My view on modding anything is, I bought it so I can do whatever the heck I want with it.    

    Phil, I know that you hate Apple and Sony as do many makers/open source folk like ourselves. we don’t like them because of their attitudes and how they throw themselves around to simply get their way. In this case though, as much as I dislike Apple, they are in the right here.

    • Anonymous

      @facebook-2412676:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @facebook-2412676:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @facebook-2412676:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      @facebook-2412676:disqus i didn’t say apple was wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stacy-Devino/2412676 Stacy Devino

    Hmmm….Apple was holding off on the white iPhone was not because of actual supply issues (though they were claimed). It is a common thing for manufacturers to hold off on a color or small feature in order to release later and make the “same old” feel new again.

    If this was orchestrated by some group in China and did not involve a young American teen we probably wouldn’t hear about it, much less care. If the kid sold purple ones, it would have likely been a simple C&D. The breaking the “law of the land” is something that he should and has paid for. Meh, the law is the law even if it is over a stupid color change. When I get a speeding ticket for going 5mph over, I still think the guy was a jerk for hanging at the bottom of the hill where the speed changed down 15mph, but at the other end trying to defend yourself in court when he used a laser system never goes your way. 

    This is not a case like how people were being threatened by Apple over software modifications. My view on modding anything is, I bought it so I can do whatever the heck I want with it.    

    Phil, I know that you hate Apple and Sony as do many makers/open source folk like ourselves. we don’t like them because of their attitudes and how they throw themselves around to simply get their way. In this case though, as much as I dislike Apple, they are in the right here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stacy-Devino/2412676 Stacy Devino

    Hmmm….Apple was holding off on the white iPhone was not because of actual supply issues (though they were claimed). It is a common thing for manufacturers to hold off on a color or small feature in order to release later and make the “same old” feel new again.

    If this was orchestrated by some group in China and did not involve a young American teen we probably wouldn’t hear about it, much less care. If the kid sold purple ones, it would have likely been a simple C&D. The breaking the “law of the land” is something that he should and has paid for. Meh, the law is the law even if it is over a stupid color change. When I get a speeding ticket for going 5mph over, I still think the guy was a jerk for hanging at the bottom of the hill where the speed changed down 15mph, but at the other end trying to defend yourself in court when he used a laser system never goes your way. 

    This is not a case like how people were being threatened by Apple over software modifications. My view on modding anything is, I bought it so I can do whatever the heck I want with it.    

    Phil, I know that you hate Apple and Sony as do many makers/open source folk like ourselves. we don’t like them because of their attitudes and how they throw themselves around to simply get their way. In this case though, as much as I dislike Apple, they are in the right here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JesperBolo Jesper Bolo Petersen

    Dear Apple, this would not have happend if you sold the kit’s yourself…. so sell them! While were at it, why dont you just use standard screws in your products. Tired of bying new bits and screwdrivers all the time… Okay that’s not totally thrue, since I’m addicted to tools (which I guess many make fans are). But it all doesnt really matter. There is a large group of DIY and hackers out there and they will always tinker around with their stuff. Think Apple should loosen up af bit and earn a few extra bucks in the process, by being more open to the DIY community…. If not, someone else will.

  • Anonymous

    As an attorney with litigation experience for/against companies with profiles similar to Apple, I can tell you that there are definitely confidentiality clauses in the settlement agreement that would prevent Fei Lam from talking/writing about this.  Fei Lam – nice work – you’ve got a great future… but do not write or say anything unless you let your lawyers approve it first.

    • Anonymous

      totally cool with me, i bet any lawyer for fei lam would encourage him to use his first amendment rights to talk about this on the MAKE site. we’d love to interview you fei!

  • Anonymous

    As an attorney with litigation experience for/against companies with profiles similar to Apple, I can tell you that there are definitely confidentiality clauses in the settlement agreement that would prevent Fei Lam from talking/writing about this.  Fei Lam – nice work – you’ve got a great future… but do not write or say anything unless you let your lawyers approve it first.

  • Anonymous

    As an attorney with litigation experience for/against companies with profiles similar to Apple, I can tell you that there are definitely confidentiality clauses in the settlement agreement that would prevent Fei Lam from talking/writing about this.  Fei Lam – nice work – you’ve got a great future… but do not write or say anything unless you let your lawyers approve it first.

  • Anonymous

    As an attorney with litigation experience for/against companies with profiles similar to Apple, I can tell you that there are definitely confidentiality clauses in the settlement agreement that would prevent Fei Lam from talking/writing about this.  Fei Lam – nice work – you’ve got a great future… but do not write or say anything unless you let your lawyers approve it first.

  • http://twitter.com/xrazorwirex Ken

    Why is everyone assuming he obtained the parts illegally?  There is a possibility that he, like many other suppliers on the internet of official apple parts that you can’t buy in an apple store, purchased it from the manufacturer of the parts.  The supplier may have been under contract not to sell these parts but if someone sold you “official” parts that THEY weren’t authorized to sell then it doesn’t mean YOU are somehow obligated to obey that private contract.

    What a corporatist world we live in.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q6CMNEMHD4Q4QUFMLMRJDEIWBA Alan

      Not corporatist, just realistic. And in fact, you ARE obligated to exercise due diligence in purchasing something. There’s something called “receiving stolen property,” which means you bought something that you knew – or reasonably should have known – the seller wasn’t legitimately entitled to sell. Someone at Foxconn or wherever offering to ship Apple-branded parts for an unreleased product? Anyone with an Internet connection knows that’s fishy.

  • http://twitter.com/ROB_636 Robert K

    The thing that I see is that, why is is so hard to have two different colors? The black one has been out for almost a year, then they finally release a white version.

    I’m in favor for Fei Lam and not Apple in this problem. Due to Apple not providing both colors from the beginning. Then again the parts do look official and trademark rites are still going to be questioned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allan-Lariviere/1553076491 Allan Lariviere

    This is why everone needs to hate Apple

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-McVeigh/652192625 Phil McVeigh

    He has STOLEN 130k worth of Apple goods. Just because a big company has brought this law breaker up doesn’t make them evil. They have to look after their own interests not the interests of a THIEF. He should be sent to prison and made to pay back all the money. Any he doesn’t pay back can be made up for in labour at Apple offices I’m sure with cleaning up or doing basically whatever is required – all free work of course at minimum wage (which comes off his THIEF bill) until he has made up for it. And no I’m not trolling, I’m fucking serious, he has broke the law and MUST pay for it. THIEF SCUM.

    • Noah Bohdee

      Stole?  Really?  Source please?

      Receiving stolen merchandise?  Really?  Source please?  Oh, the transaction happened in a SOVEREIGN nation that doesn’t necessarily HAVE that law?  

      TROLL SCUM.

Related Supplies at Maker Shed