Foxconn suicide over 4G iPhone prototype spotlights China counterfeiting

Don Durfee reports for Reuters, “One week after the apparent suicide of a Chinese factory worker accused of stealing a carefully guarded Apple iPhone prototype, one question remains unanswered: what happened to the missing phone?”

“Sun Danyong, the 25-year-old suicide victim who worked at contract cellphone maker Foxconn International’s massive gray and white factory complex in Dongguan, had 16 prototypes of Apple’s new fourth-generation iPhone in his possession, according to the Taiwanese company,” Durfee reports.

“When one went missing, Foxconn’s security guards raided his apartment, according to a report in the People’s Daily,” Durfee reports. “The phone didn’t turn up.”

Durfee reports, “A likely answer, according to security experts, is that the device ended up in the hands of Shenzhen’s notoriously entrepreneurial counterfeiters. ‘The copying of prototypes certainly happens a lot in the electronics and IT industries,’ said Dane Chamorro, a regional general manager with Control Risks, a corporate investigations consulting firm. ‘You don’t have to steal them, you just have to borrow one for a day.'”

Durfee reports, “In an earlier interview with the New York Times, Foxconn’s general manager for China said that Mr. Sun had previously lost products ‘several times’ before getting them back again.”

“According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 81 percent of all counterfeit goods seized at the U.S. border were from China… The copying takes several forms. In some cases, companies copy phones already on the market. In others, local suppliers of foreign companies run extra shifts and sell the surplus goods on the side. Then there are the designs that get stolen even before production,” Durfee reports. “This last form may be the most damaging, since it undermines costly efforts to build anticipation about upcoming products

Read more in the full article here.

[Attribution: Edible Apple.]


  1. I was thinking, if Mr. Sun had realized he made a mistake by loosing the iPhone and therefore killed himself, he would be my hero. It also would make the person who stole the phone feel pretty darn bad, also the company planning to bring the pirated version out should think twice, otherwise they will look like a gang of grave robbers.

    But if Mr. Sun had a bad habbit loosing phones for a day or two, that’s another story. Suicide yes, but I think you could find his fingernails still embedded to the window sill.

  2. @BC
    exactly, sounds like Triad involvement. Here, if the mob said, ‘we need a prototype’ and you’re a basic 25 year old employee without any power against them, what do you do?
    It does explain the others missing, but not why he still even had a job, but in China, supposedly everything is relative, meaning there are many chefs in the kitchen.

  3. Foxconn’s general manager for China said that Mr. Sun had previously lost products ‘several times’ before getting them back again.”

    Mr. Sun did what he was told to do.
    That is why he kept his job.
    He was probably used and then “commited suicide (?)” or was terminated.

  4. Heck, for $50,000 you can buy off an American judge. What do you think you can do with $5000 in China. Foxconn knew full well what Sun Danyong did. He was given custody of 16 prototypes and one “mysteriously” disappeared. It happens all the time in China: copy and steal frequently and early so you have the finest counterfeit products on the streets the same day as the real article hits the market.

    What the U.S. needs is for the American people to make a conscious decision every time they go to the store to try not to buy Chinese. The trade balance wildly imbalanced and Congress and the President are in no position to go to trade negotiations with a tough stance because China owns so damned much American notes.

    Oh, and stop voting for the first ass-hole politician who says he will cut your taxes by “eliminating waste from government” but who, at the same time will increase entitlements. If you are going to fall for that line over and over and over again, you deserve the politicians you’ve got.

  5. I don’t understand why Apple feels the need to do business with these people, both those susceptible to counterfeiting and those who would toss a counterfeiter out his apartment window.

    It’s shame the US hardly manufactures anything here anymore…

  6. We live in a global village with a global marketplace.

    If you price your labor out of the market, the manufacturing goes offshore to where the labor is cheaper.

    You’ve only yourselves to blame.

  7. @ Big Al: Well said.

    @ Greg L: “Don’t buy Chinese”? You realise that means you would have to boycot 90% of products sold in the US?

    @ AA Atendee: Generalized statements like that show you to be the greater fool. It’s attitudes like that which makes Americans so well-loved all over the world *sarcasm*. You really should lay off the booze.

  8. @emanon,

    Quoting you: “ ‘Don’t buy Chinese’? You realise that means you would have to boycot 90% of products sold in the US?”

    No, that is a wild exaggeration. There are many products for which there are non-Chinese alternatives such as those tubular quartz incandescent lamps that go into a 500-watt task light. The Chinese-made ones last, what, four hours before burning out? From espresso makers to carbide-tipped saw blades, there are many many non-Chinese alternatives. All the consumer has to do is place a higher premium on quality.

    The consumer has precious little choice but to buy Chinese when it comes to products like toys or those little stainless steel sink strainers in the kitchen hardware isle at the grocery store. These market segments, are (thankfully), the exception, not the rule.

    I realize it means Americans would have to boycott 90% of the stuff that is cheap crap not worth owning. Easy enough to do: just don’t walk into a Harbor Freight Tools store.

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