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Copyright IP Rights – Unauthorised iPhone sales in Singapore

The long-awaited Apple iPhone arrived mid of last year in the USA. It was then introduced in the UK, Germany and France in November 2007 and was only supposed to be launched in Asia in 2008. However, unlocked iPhones, which can be used with a local SIM card, were already on display in shopping centres in Singapore in 2007. Their price ranged from S$750 to S$1,100 (from US$520 to US$760), whereas the cell phone retails for US$399 in the USA.

Of course, Apple does not support hacked iPhones and retailers in Singapore were emailed and threatened by Apple of legal action against them should they continue to sell illegally unlocked iPhones. Immediately, most retailers who were selling unlocked iPhones in Singapore removed the illegal devices from their shelves as each unlocked iPhones sold could land them with fines of S$1000 (US$700). The Danish company Telek√¶den has been threatened with the same issue recently by Apple’s Danish branch, whereas the French company Orange, a subdivision of France Telecom, is currently the only company authorised to sell the unlocked iPhones.

Most of the buyers are not aware of the fact that hacking the iPhone’s software is illegal, and that unauthorised modifications to the software of the cell phone violate their software license agreement, voiding their warranty. The locking of the phones has nevertheless been a contentious issue for Apple. Apple’s marketing strategy of exclusivity deals has been challenged in the US and in Europe, like in Germany where the mobile provider Vodafone has failed to break up the deal giving rival T-Mobile the exclusive rights to distribute Apple’s iPhone in Germany.

In Singapore, however, it is unlikely that Apple’s strategy will be challenged, in Court, as it is well-known to be a regional and international Intellectual Property hub which takes intellectual property protection very seriously. Also the general public is unlikely to adopt a boycott spirit once the iPhone becomes legally available for sale in Singapore.