A scrappy Chinese-speaking teenager sold $130,000 in parts for the white iPhone 4. Now he's being slapped with legal threats. Won't anyone defend Fei Lam's right to exploit fashion-obsessed gadgeteers?
The white iPhone is the Holy Grail of smartphone aficionados. Lam, a Queens high school senior, knew how to get one. Or rather, he knew someone who knew someone at Foxconn, Apple's Chinese manufacturing partner, and who could help him get parts he told the Observer's Ben Popper. Lam set up a pipeline to China, a kit for converting black iPhone 4s to white iPhone 4s, and then a website. He was soon all over CNN, TechCrunch and CNET and rolling in orders, many of which, no doubt, came from young digital trendsters one borough over in Brooklyn.
But Apple's notoriously aggressive about defending its intellectual property, and Lam may now be in hot water:
"I got an email from a private investigator accusing me of selling stolen goods, which I'm 100 percent sure is not the case. 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."
Of course, since he's clearing somewhere north of $40,000 per month, Lam can afford a lawyer. He'll need one, given that he's selling items with actual Apple logos on them, which sounds dubious at best. That said, Apple will probably find that the best way to make this sort of thing go away is to just deliver the damned white iPhone 4, already. I mean, if a kid can do it....