Apple wins initial ruling in ‘Asteroid’ case, can pursue publishers’ confidential sources

In December 2004, Apple filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara county against unnamed individuals who allegedly leaked information about new Apple products to several online news sites, including AppleInsider and PowerPage. The articles at issue concerned a FireWire audio interface for GarageBand, codenamed “Asteroid” or “Q7.” In addition, Apple filed a separate trade secret suit against Think Secret on January 4, 2004.

“Apple Computer Inc. can force three online publishers to disclose where they got confidential information about new Apple products, a judge tentatively ruled,” Bloomberg News reports. Full article here.

“Apple is suing several unnamed individuals, called “Does,” who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product code-named “Asteroid.” Apple has subpoenaed Nfox, the Internet service provider ( ISP ) for PowerPage.com publisher Jason O’Grady, demanding that the ISP turn over the communications and unpublished materials O’Grady obtained while he was gathering information for his articles about “Asteroid.” Apple has also been granted permission to issue subpoenas directly to EFF clients PowerPage and AppleInsider for similar information,” i-newswire.com explains here.

“Judge James Kleinberg of state court in San Jose, Calif., refused to shield the publishers from Apple’s inquiries. Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that seeks to protect civil liberties related to technology, sought the order on behalf of the publishers. ‘We’re disappointed that the tentative ruling was a denial,’ said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer for the foundation. He said he would appeal the ruling,'” The New York Times quotes Bloomberg here.

Apple had “agreed to hold off on serving subpoenas until after the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, California, [had] held a hearing on the EFF’s request for a protective order for its clients, ” eWeek reported on February 16, 2005.

More about the case here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple suspends legal action against three journalists – February 17, 2005
Stop the presses! Apple sues ThinkSecret over ‘Headless Mac,’ ‘iWork,’ and other rumors – January 05, 2005
Apple Computer sues three for posting Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ on Web – December 21, 2004
Apple sues anonymous people over leak of unreleased Apple product info on Web – December 17, 2004
RUMOR: Apple preps analog to FireWire audio device for GarageBand users – November 23, 2004

27 Comments

  1. Didn´t I read somewhere recently about the head (or some higher up) of Apple hardware getting fired and suing Apple?
    Is this what this is REALLY all about? Apple trying to prove that a former employee leaked info so they don´t have to pay off in a lawsuit they might lose?

  2. It’s interesting that Asteroid hasn’t come out yet. I wonder if it was a red herring to flush out the informer? After all, it wasn’t exactly a ground-breaking product.

  3. Reporters do and always will have the right to protect their sources…

    …unless their source has committed a crime in revelaing said information divulged to the reporter. In this case it would appear a NDA was breached.

    Freedom of speech does not afford one the opportunity to freely commit crime, something well established in the court system.

  4. Cpt. Obvious has nailed it. End of discussion. Shield laws only apply in certain circumstances. In this case, a crime was committed and the publishers have no right to conceal the crime. Apple has every right to know who committed the crime against them. This is especially true in this case because the publishers knew that a crime had been committed and their is a law that makes it illegal for the publishers to publish the information. Google for Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

    This isn’t about anything that helps or harms the public, it is about industrial espionage. Let’s see how brave these journalists are now about protecting their sources.

  5. The information was a trade secret and trade secrets get special protection. If I dig through your trash once it’s on the curb, I’m OK. If I dig through your employer’s trash, even though it’s sitting on the curb, I can be charged with corporate espionage. The information published was considered a trade secret, therefore the NDA is immaterial, a crime was committed and CA’s sheild law doesn’t apply and this is not a 1st Amendment issue either.

  6. I totally side with Apple on this one.

    Obviously by ThinkSecret acquiring this information, someone inside the company has violated their NDA. Apple has every legal right to go after those people with the law totally on their side. These employees signed contracts specifically promising that they would not divulge company secrets. They did, and now ThinkSecret is involved because they felt the risk was worth printing the scoop. And now they’re in court because Apple wants to plug the leak and have the law on their side.

    I’m not for Apple suing a kid in college, but I guess it has to come to this to serve as an example for any other Apple employee with loose lips.

  7. Trade secret? If I steal your widget plan and start producing widgets, that is a crime, maybe. Simply breaking the news early hardly counts. Apple needs to find out who spilled the beans so that they can fire them.

    As to reporting: “Since when is it considered good journalism to acquire secrets not yet announced and announce them? I thought journalists report news as it happens…………………”

    What country are you from Go? Without investagative reporting, and the disclosure of facts (or rumor) previously unknown, reporting would simply be listening to the scanner for car crashes and waiting for corporate mouthpieces to call with the latest press conference date.

  8. Joe,

    Say I’m a big fan of yours. So big that I start a site dedicated to all things Joe McConnell. If I decided to actively solicit the employees at your doctor’s office for your medical records and then post what they provide on my website, AND sell ads on that site because I know I can pay for an Ivy-league education by posting your medical records, would you consider that to be ‘investigative journalism’? Wouldn’t you be a little upset that potential employers, insurance companies and mortgage lenders wouldn’t have to bother with obtaining your permission to get such private info, because they could just go to my site and find out all they need to know? Wouldn’t you want to know which of those bastards at your doctor’s office is selling your information, contrary to any notion of physician-patient relationship?

    Apple’s biggest advantage over their competiton is their ability to be innovative. Nick Ciarelli is actively soliciting employees and associates of Apple to break their NDA and give or sell Apple’s innovations to him, just so he can earn enough ad revenue to not have to pay his way through Harvard by honest means.

    This is not an ethical journalist battling a behemoth corporation. This is a narcissistic brat who, after repeated requests from Apple to stop stealing his secrets, suddenly cries foul because Apple wants to take back what is theirs.

    He’s lucky they’re not pressing criminal charges…

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