In a lawsuit filed this week, Apple alleged that an unknown individual who goes by the name of "worker bee" posted information to the Internet about Apple's new mouse and dual-processor PowerMacs before their introduction last month. Apple also said that "worker bee" posted information last month about a third product Apple has yet to introduce.
The third product appears to be a new version of the iBook with a faster processor, as the notebook was a subject of a post from the anonymous person that day.
The ironic twist is a sidelight in the closely followed case. Apple, notorious even among computer companies for its obsession with secrecy, is doggedly trying to ascertain the identity of "worker bee" and stop the leaks.
As reported earlier, Apple subpoenaed Yahoo to disclose any information the company had on "worker bee." The anonymous poster allegedly put photos of the mouse and PowerMac on two GeoCities Web sites; GeoCities is owned by Yahoo.
In its legal documents, Apple security official Robin Zonic refers to several postings in the forums of the AppleInsider rumor site. Zonic also says in a filing that "on July 25, 2000, I found postings from 'worker bee' that included detailed specifications for an as-yet unreleased Apple product."
"Worker bee" that day posted details on the upcoming iBook to AppleInsider's forums in response to a question from a reader. But Zonic did not say whether the posting was to AppleInsider, so it is possible Apple is referring to a posting somewhere else.
"Worker bee" said the iBook would contain "up to 466 MHz, DVD, 1 firewire port, 8Mb of VRAM, screen size will remain the same, don't know about new colors...yet."
Apple would not comment on details regarding the new iBook or comment on whether the iBook was the product referred to in its legal documents.
If that is the posting to which Apple is referring, it must have been somewhere on the mark to qualify as a trade secret, according to intellectual property lawyer Daniel Harris, of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison.
Harris said that some, but not necessarily all, of the information would either have to be correct or at least on the drawing board.
"It wouldn't be confidential if it wasn't talked about within Apple," Harris said.