TMO Exclusive - Apple Subpoenas Mac Rumor Sites Over Audio Product
by , 7:40 PM EST, December 20th, 2004
A California Superior Court has granted a request by Apple Computer to serve subpoenas on three Mac rumor Web sites seeking information on who leaked facts about an un-announced audio hardware product code named "Asteroid" or "Q97", court documents obtained Monday by The Mac Observer showed.
Apple's seven-page civil complaint, filed with the Santa Clara County, Calif. Superior Court, names AppleInsider.com, PowerPage.org, and ThinkSecret.com and requested the owners of all three sites produce all "documents relating to the identity of any individual or individuals who have knowledge regarding the source of posts on its site disclosing information about the Product." The order was granted on December 14, documents showed.
The request stated a person or persons "has misappropriated Apple's trade secrets regarding future product information, and those trade secrets have appeared on three websites." Having failed to identify who leaked the information regarding "Asteroid", Apple requested the subpoenas in an effort to find the culprit.
In its request to serve the subpoenas, Apple contends PowerPage.com published information on "Asteroid" or "Q97" on November 19, 22, 23, and 26, 2004 and requested documents, images and communications be turned over to help identify the person or persons who leaked details of the un-announced product. The application also asked evidence be turned over from owners of AppleInsider.com after it reported news of the un-announced product on November 23 and from ThinkSecret.com, who Apple contends reported similar news on November 24 through an affiliated message board of AppleNova.com.
Names of individuals who might possess information regarding those who alledgedly leaked the product information include "Jason O. Grady," "Kasper Jade," "Paul Scates," and "Bob Borries".
When contacted for reaction, representatives of Think Secret.com and AppleInsider.com declined to comment to TMO. A spokesperson for PowerPage.org was not immediately available for comment.
Apple did not name any of the three Mac news sites as defendants in its lawsuit.
AppleInsider.com reported on November 23 details of a product identified as "Asteroid" under the headline "Apple developing FireWire audio interface for GarageBand". The story contended Apple would soon announce "a new audio interface for GarageBand users" that would allow for direct recording of audio "using any Mac and Apple�s GarageBand music studio application," and included an artist rendering of the device.
A check by TMO found no stories related to "Asteroid" on the ThinkSecret.com Web site, but instead references to the product on message postings at AppleNova.com a Mac discussion site that ThinkSecret.com links to and is not owned or maintained by ThinkSecret.com.
As first reported by TMO last Friday, Apple filed suit December 13 alleging in a complaint that "an unidentified individual, acting alone or in concert with others, has recently misappropriated and disseminated through Web sites confidential information about an unreleased Apple product."
Speculation quickly spread that the lawsuit pertained to un-announced products such as the much talked about rumors of a flash-based iPod. Apple's reference to the product identified as "Asteroid" apparently put to rest those continuing rumors.
Further details of lawsuit revealed
Apple's seven-page complaint, obtained by TMO, reveals Apple is seeking unspecified monetary damages in excess of US$25,000 as well as punitive damages. "The amount of such damages cannot be determined at this time but will be proven in trial," the complaint read.
Under California law, Apple has 60 days to identify each defendant in the lawsuit and must meet with their legal counsel at least 30 calendar days before a court conference, scheduled for April 19, 2005.
Once defendants are named, the company is requesting a jury trial, compensatory damages, exemplary damages, a preliminary injunction stopping the defendants from leaking further product information, and an injunction permanently restraining the misappropriation of further product details.
The complaint hinted that the person who leaked the confidential product information might be an Apple employee and possibly more than one person. The document explains in great detail the exact language of an Apple contract each employee must sign agreeing to keep all proprietary information confidential during their employment. It also details steps Apple has taken to secure its facilities worldwide.
The complaint explains that Apple believes whoever leaked the "Asteroid" product information is continuing to leak facts of other products. "By reason of that ongoing misappropriation, Apple will suffer severe and irreparable harm and damage, which damage will be difficult to ascertain, and Apple will be without an adequate remedy at law," the complaint stated.
"To succeed, Apple must develop innovative products and bring those products to market in advance of its competitors," the complaint goes on to state. "If Apple competitors were aware of Apple's future production information, those competitors could benefit economically from that knowledge by directing their product development or marketing to frustrate Apple's plans."
"Apple's DNA is innovation and the protection of our trade secrets is crucial to our success.," Apple said in a statement given to TMO.