Apple has formally requested that gadget website Gizmodo hand back the prototype iPhone that they purchased off a stranger who "found" it in a bar.

In a letter to the editor of the website, Brian Lam, Apple's senior vice president and general counsel, Bruce Sewell, states that it has:

"Come to our attention that GIZMODO is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple".

The letter means that the yet-to-be-released iPhone, widely expected to be the yet-to-be-announced model due in June, is Apple's, however doubt still hangs over the fact that it might still be an early prototype rather than the finished product.

According to Gizmodo's legal team California the law states, "If it is lost, the owner has three years to reclaim or title passes to the owner of the premises where the property was found. The person who found it had the duty to report it".

Gizmodo has also outlined how it came across the prototype, claiming that the person that "gave" it to them (rumours are swirling around the journalist fraternity that Gizmodo paid between $5 and $10,000 for it) found it in a bar after Apple Software Engineer, Gray Powell, left it on a barstool.

Whether or not the iPhone Gizmodo got is the final version or a prototype won't be known until Apple decide to announce the new iPhone later this year.

Read Next gen Apple iPhone gets further inspection and iPhone 4G found in bar, facts suggest likely to be real thing to find our more about the prototype iPhone.