January 10, 2005 8:13 AM PST
Apple suit tests First Amendment
"To me, it is very disturbing that Apple, or anybody frankly, would try to invoke trade secrets to go after a media publication or, for that matter, even a blog," said Paul Grabowicz, director of the New Media Program at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. "If they think somebody inside is leaking information, then they should be going after them directly."
However, some legal experts say the Mac maker may well have a case.
"I think there is potential liability," said Daniel Westman, a partner at law firm Shaw Pittman. "The trade secret statutes are very, very broadly written with the idea in mind that people who are maliciously intended could try to hide their action through intermediaries."
Apple and Think Secret representatives declined to comment for this article.
For Grabowicz, Apple's suit is part of a disturbing trend in which businesses and government are suing media outlets to uncover leaks. Even before this latest suit, Apple had already gotten a court to issue subpoenas to Think Secret and two other enthusiast sites seeking to force them to turn over information about their sources for reports on upcoming Apple products.
"The ones who are going to lose are the public," Grabowicz said. "They are either going to not have the information or the information they have is going to be orchestrated by the government and corporations."
Grabowicz said he wonders what the limits are in terms of what might be construed as a trade secret. "If a reporter does a story on a defective product based on leaked information, can they be sued?"
Westman said some deference is given to whistle-blowers who reveal inside information to expose wrongdoing or a public safety threat. However, he said it seems unlikely that the information Think Secret posted would get similar protection.
"It will be interesting to see this case and see if the First Amendment does provide protection, but I doubt it," Westman said from his office in McLean, Va.
Ultimately, Westman sees the case as a collision of two government aims--promoting innovation and protecting free speech. "You are talking about a clash between property rights and free-speech rights," he said. "There are limits to both."
In its case, Apple tries to characterize the action as one related to
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