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expand the answer to cover business vs consumer. Also link to iCloud since you can remove a lock easily if you know the password and can authenticate as the owner of the iCloud account.
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Officially Remove Activation Lock

There are two ways to remove iCloud Activation Lock:

  1. Apple will remove the lock once verifying the original purchaser is requisition the action.
  2. Self-service removal if you can authenticate as the iCloud account that placed the lock on that device.

For consumers, you will likely need to make an appointment at an Apple Store and provide the Genius on-hand proof of purchase (to show you're the authorized owner) along with proof of identity and they will reset Activation Lock, giving you access to the device.

For businesses, it depends if you are enrolled in DEP - Apple's Device Enrollment Program or just want to provide copies of the original purchase listing serial numbers to verify ownership.

If you bought the device second hand, stole it, found it or came to possess the device by some means other than buying it from Apple directly, then you will probably need the original owner to show proof of purchase, etc. They will then transfer the device to your account or simply disable Activation Lock.

The only self-service way to remove the lock if you can't type your password into the device itself is to authenticate at and remove the activation lock when the device is not connected to the internet.

If you're purchasing a second hand iPhone, visit to check the status of the device before you buy it.