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White iPhone conversion kits land teenage entrepreneur in hot water

Since Apple's apparently having trouble making a white iPhone 4, a 17-year-old entrepreneur decided to do it himself. Fei Lam purchased white iPhone parts directly from Foxconn, the overseas factory that manufactures many of Apple's products, including the iPhone. He put up a website, WhiteiPhone4Now, that offers conversion kits consisting of the front and back plate plus home button; you can currently buy the complete kit for US$279. Since August, Lam has sold more than US$130,000 in conversion kits, which Lam says will help him pay for college.

It sounds like a typical, all-American success story...but of course, someone higher up is trying to smack him down. Lam says he has received an email from a "private investigator" accusing him of selling stolen goods. "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."

Assuming this isn't all just a huge publicity stunt on Lam's part, the idea that these white iPhone 4 parts were "stolen" seems ludicrous -- maybe not from a legal perspective, but definitely from a common sense perspective. Sure, Apple may technically own those parts, and sure, Foxconn technically doesn't have the right to sell those parts to a third-party without Apple's consent. But considering that Apple's not releasing a white iPhone 4 until Spring 2011, if ever, it's fairly likely those parts were just going to end up at a Shenzhen landfill anyway.

I say let the kid sell some conversion kits; at almost $300 a pop, he's probably not going to sell more than a few thousand anyway. And besides, it's not like Lam is hurting Apple's bottom line in any way: conversion kit buyers had to buy an iPhone 4 on their own in the first place. Apple, if you really are going after this poor guy, then in the spirit of the Beatles, just let it be.

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