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Apple raises legal sword over rumour sites

Steve 'Damocles' Jobs strikes to end product leaks

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Apple yesterday fired off a broadside toward Mac-oriented rumour Web sites and their sources in an attempt to block leaks of future product announcements.

Apple's action involved a misappropriation of trade secrets suit filed in the Satan Clara Superior Court and directed at 25 unnamed individuals. The suit demands monetary damages and an injunction preventing them from displaying images and information for which they lack Apple's authorisation.

Filing suits against unnamed individuals is nothing new, and is largely used to scare people into doing what the plaintiff wants. Apple said it doesn't know the names of the individuals, but it must have a pretty shrewd idea, since it has already threatened a number of Web sites - sites whose editors and owners are well known - over images they have published.

Some identities, such as those of Apple staffers and third-parties who haved leaked information, often under non-disclosure agreements, will not be known, but Apple said it will modify the complaint as and when they become known to it.

Essentially, Apple is saying that it will no longer tolerate this activity, and will sue anyone who does it. You know who you are, and we know who you are, says Apple, so watch it, OK?

Apple reckons that the leaks put it at a "competitive disadvantage", resulting in "material harm". A moot point, that, but clearly no company wants its upcoming products open to scrutiny before launch. "If Apple's competitors were aware of Apple's Future Product Information, these competitors could benefit economically from that knowledge by directing their product development or marketing to counteract Apple's plans," says the suit.

Well, if the likes of Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, et al. were that bothered about Apple, maybe, but we suspect they're not pace the company's success with iMac.

Still, there's the thorny issue of profiting from the leaked information, and Apple did say that it believes at least one of the unnamed individuals has done very nicely, thank you out of their knowledge of upcoming Apple kit. Better leaks, after all, mean more readers, and more readers means higher ad revenues for Web sites. ®

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