Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gregory H. Ward yesterday signed an order allowing Apple to subpoena all records related to a GeoCities member known as "worker bee." The member allegedly posted information on Apple's new mouse and dual-processor PowerMacs before their introduction at last month's Macworld trade show in New York. The subpoena has been served on Yahoo, sources said.
On Tuesday, Apple filed a lawsuit against an unnamed individual, accusing the person of posting inside information on upcoming products. By forcing Yahoo to turn over the records, Apple said it hopes to identify the source of the leak.
In the weeks leading up to Macworld, Apple sent letters to various Macintosh rumor sites trying to get them to take down postings it said violated its trade secrets. While most complied, some published the letters sent by Apple and said that the company's assertions could not be legally maintained.
Several of the postings referenced in Apple's court documents were made to the AppleInsider rumor site.
Macintosh News Network publisher Monish Bhatia, whose company also publishes AppleInsider, said his company agreed to take down images it had of Apple's PowerMac G4 Cube before its launch but is studying what to do in the future.
"We do have some protections under the First Amendment," Bhatia said. "We need to study how far we can use that protection."
In a declaration to the court, Apple senior corporate security investigator Robin Zonic said the information "worker bee" posted to various chat forums and to Geocities Web pages were Apple trade secrets made available only to people who were parties to nondisclosure agreements.
Zonic referred to pictures and information posted to two GeoCities pages. Neither page is currently available. Yahoo would not say whether the sites were taken down by it or by the member.
"The postings by 'worker bee' demonstrate a continuing pattern of trade secret violations that have caused irreparable harm to Apple," Zonic said in the filing. "Through its internal investigations, Apple has been unable to determine the identity of 'worker bee.'"
A Yahoo representative would not comment on the case but said it is the company's policy to notify people when a court order has been received to give them a chance to overturn the subpoena. If no action is taken, Yahoo will then turn over its data.
The subpoena seeks the name, address, telephone number, Internet Protocol address and email address of "worker bee." In its suit, Apple seeks monetary damages and an injunction to prevent further exposure of trade secrets.