Apple wins key ruling; three people who published trade secrets must reveal sources

“Apple Computer won a key ruling in a San Jose courtroom Friday in a case involving some company trade secrets. A judge ruled that three people who published articles on the Internet about some Apple products must divulge their confidential sources to help Apple protect its trade secrets,” The Associated Press reports. “Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled that no one has the right to publish information that could only have been provided by someone breaking the law.”

AP reports, “‘The rumor and opinion mills may continue to run at full speed,’ Kleinberg wrote. ‘What underlies this decision is the publishing of information that at this early stage of the litigation fits squarely within the definition of trade secret. The right to keep and maintain proprietary information as such is a right which the California Legislature and courts have long affirmed and which is essential to the future of technology and innovation generally.'”

“In December, Apple sued several unnamed individuals… who leaked specifications about pending music software — code-named “Asteroid” — to Monish Bhatia, Jason O’Grady and another person who writes under the pseudonym Kasper Jade. Their articles appeared in the online publications AppleInsider and PowerPage,” AP reports.

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple’s lawsuits to guard against rumor sites cause sour taste for some – March 09, 2005
Commentator: Apple need to patch its own ‘leaks’ to better protect trade secrets – March 07, 2005
Think Secret files motion to have Apple lawsuit dismissed – March 04, 2005
Attorneys expect decision ‘early next week’ on Apple trade secrets hearing – March 04, 2005
Forbes writer wonders if Apple is the new Microsoft – March 04, 2005
Apple wins initial ruling in ‘Asteriod’ case, can pursue publishers’ confidential sources – March 03, 2005
Apple suspends legal action against three journalists – February 17, 2005
ThinkSecret’s Ciarelli gains pro bono legal help in defense of Apple lawsuit – January 19, 2005
ThinkSecret’s Nick Ciarelli says he can’t afford to defend himself against Apple lawsuit – January 15, 2005
Harvard Student and ThinkSecret owner Nick Ciarelli faces Apple’s legal wrath over product ‘leaks’ – January 13, 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

31 Comments

  1. When I was working for Megabloks I signed a NDA where I agreed to keep secret from any outsiders whatever I learned from within the company. The NDA made me liable to be prosecuted for up to CAD $100,000.

    Does that mean that if I was in the USA i could have spoken to a teen and got away with it? Shoud the tee have been a reporter for a web site, a major news outlet or his school newsletter? Is there a law in the states that says as long as you speak to a teen you are protected from the law? Or is there a law in the states that says that as long as you speak to a journalist you don’t have to honor a contract you signed? Tat speaking to a journalist frees you from prosecution?

  2. For example, the cigarette companies’ studies on the health effects of smoking were “Company Confidential” and were leaked to the press to show that the cigarette companies knew of the health effects of smoking when the leaders of the companies testified before Congress that they had not. The person who revealed this information certainly broke a non-disclosure agreement.

    And like I’ve been saying in every one of these articles: Those people breaking their NDAs to report illegalities are protected from prosecution under Whistle Blower laws. It is an entirely different circumstance to violate your NDA because you want to, as opposed it actually being the right thing to do ethically and legally.

    If the people Apple are after were reporting illegal activities Apple was engaged in, this ruling would have been the exact opposite. As it were it’s a couple untrustworthy assholes who violated a legal contract, and like everyone else who breaks a law or legally binding contract they should answer for their actions.

  3. The Judge’s ruling is available on line: the best link I have found is at news.com.com (CNet). 13 pages, but worth reading. IANAL, but it looks to be very carefully drawn and limited to one subpoena (Nfox, the ISP, not the “publishers”), and explicitly refuses to be drawn on the who is a journalist question, as well as other questions. It only addresses the issue of discovery, and takes no view for example on whether the material published meets the standard for a trade secret, though prima facie it does.

    That said, he handles the EFF lawyers pretty roughly, and they may want to consider carefully before rushing to appeal, unless their dignity is offended.

    Tom S

  4. “Yeah, I admit this bothered me. There are lots of things that are “Company Confidential” and this is real slippery slope stuff.

    For example, the cigarette companies’ studies on the health effects of smoking were “Company Confidential” and were leaked to the press to show that the cigarette companies knew of the health effects of smoking when the leaders of the companies testified before Congress that they had not. The person who revealed this information certainly broke a non-disclosure agreement.”

    Peter, there are sometimes exceptional circumstances that make it OK to break an NDA. For example, if a corporation is doing something illegal, you have a right to break your NDA and file for Whistleblower Status. If you get Whistleblower Status, then you are allowed to break your NDA and leak the relevant information.

    Apple did not do anything illegal in this case, so the people who leaked the info are not Whistleblowers. Instead, they are criminals, and to publist their information is a criminal act.

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