January 5, 2005 10:36 AM PST

Apple suit foreshadows coming products

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company's Keynote presentation program with a new document creation application called Pages. "The postings on Think Secret included detailed technical specifications and product code names," the lawsuit maintains. "Apple had maintained and protected this Future Product Information as trade secrets."

Apple also mentions articles that discussed updates to the company's iLife suite as having "disclosed various technical specifications regarding Apple's unreleased 'iLife '05' software product."

The suit illustrates the challenges Apple faces in trying to keep its products secret. In order to maintain trade secret protection, companies have to vigorously try to plug leaks. However, in trying to identify the leaks, Apple has at times lent credence to the rumors it wishes to squelch.

In August 2000, Apple sued to identify a tipster who had used the name "worker bee." Through subpoenas, Apple later identified the individual as an ex-contractor, Juan Gutierrez. But in its efforts to identify worker bee, Apple had to confirm that there was at least some truth to the rumors that he was posting--namely the details of a revision to the iBook laptop. Apple later released a laptop whose details matched worker bee's description.

In this week's suit, Apple notes the lengths it has gone to in trying to stop the leaks through Think Secret. The suit notes a number of letters that its lawyers have sent in recent years to Think Secret warning that the site's postings contain confidential trade secrets. In the letters, Apple demanded that the site remove all information on the products and that it provide "all information regarding the person or persons who supplied the trade secrets." Apple said the site's owners have ignored its demands.

Apple maintains that while others obtained the trade secrets that were leaked by Think Secret, the site engaged in "tortious interference" with the confidentiality agreements that Apple requires employees and contractors to sign. The suit is filed against site owner The dePlume Organization, as well as its owner, who uses the pseudonym Nick dePlume, whose real identity Apple has not determined.

"Although the dePlume defendants are aware that such information constitutes Apple trade secrets and is protected by Apple's confidentiality agreements, the dePlume defendants actively encourage and induce persons to provide future product information in breach of those agreements." The suit points specifically to a posting made after Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June. "Think Secret's request stated, 'Did you hear something you weren't supposed to at WWDC? We appreciate your insider news and Mac gossip. E-mail us or use our anonymous e-mail form."

Apple seeks an injunction stopping further disclosure of trade secrets as well as unspecified damages from dePlume and those who aided in the publishing. It also seeks damages from the unnamed individuals who breached Apple's confidentiality agreement.

In the suit, Apple outlines the damage that leaks cause, noting that disclosures give competitors a head start and hurt the buzz created around its products. "Unauthorized disclosures diminish the interest of both the mainstream and trade media in the launch of a new product," Apple said.

Apple makes an effort in the lawsuit to say it is not trying to step on the First Amendment.

"By this action, Apple does not seek to discourage communication protected by the free-speech guarantees of the United States and California constitutions," Apple said in the suit. "These constitutionally protected freedoms, however, do not extend to defendants' unlawful practice of misappropriating and disseminating trade secrets acquired through the deliberate violation of known duties of confidentiality."

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It's Publicity
I love Apple products, but this suit is ridiculous. The rumor sites always get people hyped for the Macworld announcements, which in effect amounts to free publicity.

Get over it Apple. Geez.
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Loose Lips Sink Shares
So, if TS did get credible leak from source, not only does this steal "Job's Thunder" appeal, but it can lead to threads picked up over the net by rivals. For instance, there are overseas manufacturers that want to ride Apple's coattails without giving money for licensing.

In other words, you miss the mark. You whine and cry that AAPL isn't doing well, but when Apple licenses iPod rights for 3rd-party accessories, albeit with NDAs for control and quality issues and wow!; share prices triple, its like Apple can do no wrong. But when it stands up for consistant leaks, rumors and possible property damages (imagine iPod was leaked months before release...) would it have generated revenues as it has now? Is it such a bad company for protecting intellectual property (again that provides investors with income?)
Wake up and let Apple do its thing. Rumor sites just dish fecal matter that feeds empty heads, all the while generating its own revenue with pop-ups, flash-ads and subscriptions of zealots.
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Link Flag
Bite the hand that feeds you
Apple better be damn careful. Palm and a few other companies have played this dangerous game as well (sueing sites.) and its come back to bite them in the ***. Apple needs to understand that the users that frequent sites like thinksecret, macrumors, etc are Apple enthusiasts. Suing the people who evangelize the Mac platform is not a good strategy. Then again Jobs could call all Mac users losers and someone would put a spin on it that makes Jobs a rebel or something. I find it amazing how some people in the fandom can make excuses for anything that company does.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
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Apple should worry?
Apple need not worry about the biting the hand that feeds it. Those in the 'fandom', as you put it, will forgive any trespass. I work with enough of them, I know. Apple update wipes some external hard drives? Oh well, everyone makes mistakes. Apple doesnt test iTunes for Windows enough to know that it conflicts with popular CD writer drivers and makes it so the machine wont boot? Its all Microsofts fault. A computer sold without a monitor? A flash based MP3 player? Apple innovation at work. In 04 Apples market share falls below 2%, is the only major computer manufacturer that looses ground, but Apple is ready to push into the Enterprise?
MS is the medias demon, and I know of no one that can argue that. They have really screwed up, and deserve a good whack on the head. I just cant figure out why Apple has become the media darling. Are they that desperate?
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
dangerous game
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/renault_laguna_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/renault_laguna_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
Apple does WHAT?
I am a firm Apple fan since over 20 years. I really believe that Apple suing ThinkSecret can only be a hoax.

There is no way Apple would get upset over a 500$ single chip G4 computer announcement leaking out - that is not even a timely product. On my expectation list, I have a small 500$ computer with a dual core G5 processor by Apple, fast graphics, dual 1TB harddisk, fast Gigabit Ethernet etc. Seeing as if they should really build THAT machine soon, it is unthinkable they sell single chip G4s for 500 bucks, and even more unthinkable that they get upset about someone "leaking" such ideas.

There is no need for Apple to get upset over some alleged 'iWorks' program leaking either. Since there is OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2004, there is only some type of 'Applix on steroids' package on my expectation list, something that contains web- and rendezvous-based cooperative document editing features, something that includes advanced document and image administration such as the free php-packages OWL and Coppermine Gallery or the like, something that puts LaTex document add-on sorting features at the tips of OS X Aqua users. So, it can't be that they get upset over leaking of something such as "iWorks". I really do not believe that. Besides, wouldn't they have to sue someone else for that 'iWorks' product name? Impossible.

Also on my expectation list for early 2005 is an announcement by IBM, saying that Apple releases OS X for IBM workstations supporting up to 32 GB RAM and up to 8 Processors. So I am confident they should be busy working on that one, which is very cool and very important.

It must be a hoax that Apple sues such little items that are neither complex or timely enough to get aroused by anyhow. That'd be like a supermarket getting upset about leaking the announcement of cheap, thin, fragile, plastic bags.
Posted by swisswuff (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anti-Trust lawsuits! LOL!! It's about time. Looks like apple is gonna have to play like everyone else now! Guess what epple freaks? just like MS your crap browser and even crapper quicktime will have to be packaged seperatly! HAHAHA
Posted by (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is exactly the crap that MS gets blasted for
Any other company tries this and they're big bad corporate demons who get vilified in the press.

But apparently the Apple faithful is ready to rush right out and defend the company.

Hey everyone, the Kool-Aid is almost ready!
Posted by (127 comments )
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