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back to article Apple sues teenager for white iPhone conversion kits

Apple has thrown the book at a student who last year sold White iPhone 4 conversion kits to those sick of waiting for an official product to surface. In November 2010, with release dates for the white iPhone 4 constantly pushed back, one fanboy's impatience got the better of him. New York teen Fei Lam ordered parts from Apple …

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Bad Apple

Woz bought one of these.

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Megaphone

Wtf Apple!

He should have gone to the media! This is a 17 y/o ffs.

No other company would do this. Apple are as evil as the RIAA.

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Gimp

Lord post

I assume that is why Apple dropped the lawsuit right away. Either they realized how bad it would look, or they just filed it to make a point in the first place: "If we wanted to, we could sue you into oblivion."

From what I understand, only the Apple logo and the iPhone trademark make it illegal; but the infringement is as clear as it could be.

I still don't get what the fanboy icon is supposed to represent.

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This post has been deleted by its author

hardly your average 17 year old

He contacted and sourced the parts from Foxconn FFS, not something you'd expect an every day Joe to do. Still, Foxconn should be getting it in the neck imho.

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Anonymous Coward

He turned it white for cryin' out loud... @ AC 14:03

Why is it he could do something that apple took a year to do? They should be embarrassed, not taking legal action... Get a grip.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe but...

He bought the parts, and painted them, as I understand it. If the parts were stolen, that's a different matter. If Foxconn weren't meant to sell him the parts, that's more the fault of Foxconn than him.

If you bought the panel of a car, painted it a different colour and sold it, would you expect the car manufacturer to sue you?

Beware of calling other people "not exactly very bright" when it may also apply to yourself.

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@AC

From the article, Apple's complaints — and my guesses at the reasoning behind them are:

"infringed upon patents and violated its trademark", i.e. manufactured (if he was painting them himself as other commenters allege) and sold equipment with the Apple logo on without permission.

"using deceptive practices in the creation and sale of the product", presumably by making some sort of claim that these were authentic Apple parts for genuine white iPhones rather than genuine black parts, repainted.

Though it's ironic that Apple appear to be using (amongst others) laws with the purpose of allowing a company to protect is reputation to sue a 17-year old who through significant initiative managed to fill a gap they'd created when they failed to ship a simple product for an extended period of time. I think they're being really stupid on this one.

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Gimp

I believe ...

... it is a Gimp mask.

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Windows

Thanks

Now, what is the Windows user icon about??

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Bad car analogy

If the poor little lad had bought the parts from Apple you'd have a point. He did not. He bought the parts from Foxcon.

Apple can't really pursueFoxcon in a US court, but they can pursue the tyke because he is selling illegally branded parts.

If Ford had their door panels made by SheetMetalPressers and you bought Ford panels from them and then painted them and sold them, Ford would too.

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The Windows User Icon

Appears to be a tramp with a can of special brew. No, I'm not sure why, either.

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Coat

titular musings

Probably because your average windows user can't afford apple products?

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Flame

protecting trademarks can force this

much as I despise apple and pity iDrones, unfortunately the way trademark law works - use it or lose it + enforce it or lose it, it does mean that companies develop twitchy trigger fingers when it comes to setting the dogs of law onto potential infringers.

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I think you're right

Indeed, I think you're right. If they let too many things slip through then they could well loose their trademarks. They have no choice but to take action. At least they dropped it immediately, probably for some minuscule fee, like $1. So they can tick the right boxes for their trademarks.

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Exactly

You have to defend your trademarks or you lose them.

Also, the casing is a registered design and if anyone was allowed to produce and sell it then almost exact clones would be permitted.

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They didn't want him

They didn't want him - they wanted the Foxconn leak that was selling him the parts so they used a law suit to frighten him (or rather his parents) enough to give them all the details of the supplier.

I would guess that Apple will shortly be filing against that person and won't be dropping it quite so quickly.

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Childcatcher

Bunch of c*****

What a bunch of c*****. They're really going after a kid. Yes, as he's in the US he's probably been able to drive for the last 10 years, but won't be able to buy a beer for another 15 or have sex for a further 5.

Would be tempted to get rid of my iPhone now, if it wasn't for the small matter of being tied in for X months.

Angry, meaningless protests that don't come to fruition - yeah!

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Mushroom

Is that an actual shot?

Not sure why on earth he would sell it with the Apple logo on the back, tip ex it out!!

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Gimp

Why?

It would seem to have been a genuine Apple part purchased in good faith from the actual manufacturer. I can buy genuine ASUS spares from Europe and ASUS don't sue me.

Still, yet another reason not to want anything made by apple, as if I need it.

Fuck Apple.

Fanboi cos the gimp loves a good bending over.

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Anonymous Coward

...Two legs better

...Two legs better

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Bunch of wankers

What a bunch of self-important wankers.

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Who?

Apple, or the posters on this forum? :-)

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WTF?

going after the parents?

Wha? Surely that wouldnt work unless he used their credit card to buy stuff.

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the kid was a minor

(note, IANAL) Under 18s in the US are minors. Among other things, they cannot legally enter into binding contracts, or vote, or enlist in the military, etc. Until they reach their majority, their parents are liable for the actions of the little darlings, to a large extent.

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Anonymous Coward

minors???

The U.S. has allowed the prosecution of 12 year olds (age at prosecution, not crime) as full blown adults. Merkins are very schizophrenic in deciding at what age a child is really a child.

They can enter into legally binding contracts. It's called employment and they are paid set wages (usually minimum and sometimes less as contract farm workers, wait staff, or in the case of an aquaintence... a bikini dancer (no nudity until 18).

They can register to vote if they'll be of age at the time of the election.

They can most certainly sign up for military service under 18 years of age.

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schizo is right, but ...

Minors can be employed, under very specific conditions (limitations on hours, etc.) ... However, a minor cannot, for example, sign a contract with a mobile phone service provider ... dear mummy and daddy must do that for them. In fact, TechDirt points out that every single murkan Google user under the age of 18 may technically be violating the law: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090625/0241115358.shtml

If they want to join the military under 18, their parents MUST sign for them. Also, they cannot be deployed until they turn 18.

In murka, chilluns must be:

18 to vote (note, not "register to vote" -- actually vote)

18 to smoke or purchase cigarettes

18 to sign a legally binding contract (like, credit card, mobile phone, etc.)

18 to join the military (UNLESS parents sign for them at 17)

21 to drink or purchase alcohol

However, if the courts so decree, they can be prosecuted for crimes as an adult from a very young age. Make sense? Nope. Gonna change anytime soon? Nope.

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Mushroom

It's bad enough

That Apple's customers drool over the next model. That tongues hang out over the colour of a piece of plastic is just ridiculous.

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Devil

The title went <- thataway

The fuckers! They just have to have every last penny profit they can.

I'm one person who will never give Apple a single penny. If on the off-chance I ever need an Apple product (and I really can't see me doing so) I'll get it off eBay.

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And ?

And yet Apple seem to be doing OK even though you won't buy their products......bet they're quaking in their boots now.

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FAIL

@ AC

and that is why apple will FAIL very badly very soon.

slowly as more and more of these stories make it to the newspapaers even joe blogs down the street will realize the evil pervading their live and ditch the satanistic ways of the the jobs Cult.

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Get Real

People have been saying this about Microsoft / Sony / Every other large multinational for years and it simply isn't the case.

Apple will still be making huge sales of iPhones, iPads, iPods, iMacs and everything else starting with "i" regardless of what you buy.

For every idealogical "I won't buy their stuff" there is still a hundred or a thousand people who will.

It might be sad but it's still true.

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Facepalm

It's not about what others do...

...it's about what I do. I'm holding to my principles. Sooner or later the other people doing the exact same thing will increase. Slowly but surely.

Apple were popular for a small time in the 80s, then interest fell off.

The funny thing about history is that it tends to be circular.

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@ AC Re: And, Kevin Gurney

I also refuse to buy Apple products. In fact I have a rule that they are not to even come into my house. A few friends had iPhones and weren't happy about leaving them in the car, but my house - my rules. After explaining a few things to them about Apple and its wannabe tyranny, I've successfully weaned four people off of Apple products and moved them onto other brands instead. I'm currently working on a fifth, and I will keep going after that.

Just because millions of fanbois keep on buying their products does not invalidate the actions of those of us who disagree with Apple's business models and general screw-everyone attitude. Each person I wean off of Apple is one less customer to buy their next iGadget. And I'm not alone, as evidenced by some of the comments here.

Remember the old Chinese philosophy of Sil Lum Tao - the great mountain made of many small pebbles. If enough people take a few pebbles each, eventually there is no mountain left.

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@Steven Roper

You sad man!

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What's their problem?

They were apparently official "repair parts", surely the problem is miscommunication between Foxconn and Apple on the availability of white repair parts.

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Simple

It's quite simple, Foxconn selling parts direct to consumers or non-Apple divisions is not allowed. It's Apple's IP and copyrighted design.

Just like a DVD and CD manufacturer doesn't have the right to sell cheap films and music CDs direct to customers either. They don't own the film or music, they are just contracted to make them.

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Anonymous Coward

Different cases.

I love how people have been selling replacement bodies for nokia et al for literally decades (no, not fascias) yet when someone does it to apple it suddenly becomes a cardinal sin.

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Not copies

This kid was not selling pattern parts or copied designs, he was selling official parts acquired illegally.

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Anonymous Coward

Nokia

Nokia designed the phones to have easily removable covers and made this a feature of the phone which was used to sell it.

Canging the cover on an iPhone is so difficult that it's almost as though Apple don't want people to do it for some reason.

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Anonymous Coward

That's why i said 'no, not fascias'

Not all nokias were designed to have easily removable covers.

I also said 'et al'.

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@Giles Jones

In order to determine the legality of the kid's purchases from Foxconn, there needs to be a bit more info about that deal in the public sphere. Nobody else but YOU has such info?!? Post a link explaining why you believe the deal is illegal or figure out how to keep your mouth shut until you have some facts at your fingertips.

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Angel

Apple customers are none too bright...

They NEED protection from white pieces of plastic that look like the Holy Real Thing. They might get CONFUSED while sourcing polymers from a third-party website and think the are communicating with an AppStore[tm] or even one of one of those rumored Apple Stores that bless us with their Earthly Presence.

Of course, they should inherently sense that the JOBSIANESS is not inherent in these heathen pieces of cheap chinese lookalikes and their IMPATIENCE at the obtaining the Next Holy Gimmick to clad their Holy Product caused them to stray from the path of virtuosity. The flesh is weak.

Bless, bless!

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WTF?

Does this seem strange?

Apple have been unable to produce a white iPhone 4 for months, yet, Foxconn, offical Apple supplier, were able to supply white iPhone4 parts, back in November.

Either these were very poor quality test samples, or Apple have been able to produce the holy grail of iPhone4's all along and have withheld them until sales started to level out, so that the super-fanbois can ditch their black ones and buy a white one... just months before the iPhone5 arrives.

No, Apple wouldn't do that, would they?

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Anonymous Coward

Not strange at all

I doubt fabrication of the plastic shell has been the problem. From what Apple has said, they ran into significant problems with the ambient light sensor not working with white plastic rather than the black plastic. I am not sure anyone is certain how Apple addressed the problem, if it was a software change, a sensor change, or a change to the white shell. Heck, the parts this kid bought from Foxxcomm could very well be early prototypes that were scrapped.

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Re: Not strange at all

I bought a white conversion kit and they do differ from the final product in several ways. Most noticeably as you can see from the picture in El Reg's article the proximity sensor above the speaker is a mesh-like rectangle. If you look at the released model on Apple's website there's a dark lozenge shape in that place, suggesting Apple had to re-design the proximity sensor by recessing it in the case (I've noticed on mine it tends to make the screen brighter in well lit areas and darker in dark areas, which for me actually works better!)

Other differences between the conversion kit and the final product are that the screens have no oleophobic coating and the Home button is not quite the same colour and it's slightly crooked (that one might be my fault, iPhones are bloody fiddly inside, I've never seen such small screws)!

I think it did take Apple an unusually long time to get the white iPhone out, but certainly their reasons for the delay jibe very closely with the flaws in the kit I bought.

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WTF?

Hang on a sec

Wasn't he just changing the colour of a apple product? He was not claiming it was anything other than an apple product - so why does fuckwit law apply here? All I see is an enterprising reseller - no copyright laws broken there.

Or is it that apple want to be the only ones to sell overpriced cases?

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed

From the small amount of information revealed here it isn't totally clear he's broken any law. It's not an obvious trademark infringement as he's clearly using the mark to refer to Apple rather than pretending to be Apple, and it's not a clear copyright/design infringement as he didn't make the parts himself. However, it looks as though somebody has infringed the copyright/design and this guy was working together with that somebody.

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FAIL

A title is required

"It's not an obvious trademark infringement as he's clearly using the mark to refer to Apple rather than pretending to be Apple..."

In the United States, with US trademark laws, that doesn't matter. Any unauthorized use of a trademark, even if the infringer is not claiming or pretending to be the company the trademark belongs to, is still infringement.

A lot of folks get really upset when they see stories like this, without understanding that US trademark law is written in such a way that trademark owners have little choice. Disney occasionally sues mothers who paint Mickey Mouse upon their bedroom laws or day care centers that put Donald Duck on the side of the playroom. It's the same thing.

The law specifies quite clearly that if a company owns a trademark, and the company becomes aware that someone is using the trademark but doesn't sue that person, the company can lose the trademark. This is called the "doctrine of laches" and it's a part of US trademark law (Title 15, § 1115, section B, paragraph 9), as well as trademark law in most of the various states.

It's kind of stupid; I for one would prefer trademark law to be more similar to copyright law, in which failure to act against an infringer doesn't mean you lose the copyright forever.

But unfortunately, it's not.

Trademark and patent law in the US is kind of broken. Mostly, it's broken in ways that protect the interests of big companies. When it comes to this, though, it's broken in a way that doesn't serve anyone's interests. Big companies don't like suing 17-year-old kids; even a company as famously arrogant as Apple knows that's bad publicity. But they have no choice, if they want to keep the trademark on the Apple logo.

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"If we wanted to, we could sue you into oblivion."

Only because they're no decent judges around. A decent judge would take one hard look at the case and give a huge claim to the youngster. If they ran the risk of getting a judge in appeal that would slam the cuffs on them, they're eagerness to "sue you into oblivion" would soon cool down.

And that is of course the only appropriate action.

But NOOOOOH, law isn't judge on what's fair and what's not.

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