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Teal Sunglasses: even more on thinksecret and Apple

Chuq Von Rospach posts his take on the Think Secret case in Teal Sunglasses: even more on thinksecret and Apple.

Some bloggers are doing journalism. Most of us aren’t. ThinkSecret is a lot closer to the National Enquirer than it is the New York Times, and I can’t remember the last time the Enquirer won a lawsuit by standing behind a Shield law.

I can’t see Chuq’s reasoning. Unlike The Enquirer, Think Secret doesn’t make up its stories – if it did, I doubt Apple would be suing it. Neither is he apparently aware of the way in which Think Secret works (I’d seriously suggest he read Nick Ciarelli’s declaration in support of the Anti-SLAPP motion that the site just filed, if he want’s to learn more). Moreover, Chuq appears blissfully unaware that what Nick does is in a long-standing tradition of investigative trade journalism.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John

    If investigative trade journalism’s purpose is to expose illegal activities, then the California version of the UTSA does not protect a company (or the government). There is no issue of Apple performing illegal acts here so we need to set that aside.

    But even investigative trade journalism is not allowed to expose trade secrets. Has any news media been allowed to display the formula for Coca-Cola? Wouldn’t that be in the public interest as other companies could offer similar-tasting cola at lower prices?

    Cut out all the sideshows over bloggers and journalists, and the basic question is whether the info Think Secret published is a trade secret or not.

    From the CA UTSA: “Trade secret” means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program device, method, technique, or process, that: (i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and (ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

    It clearly meets (ii) because any Apple-authorized person that had this info was under NDA. Does it meet the first criteria? Given the detail and the timing of the release, I think it does.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    That’s an interesting definition of “trade secret”, because it’s certain that none of Think Secret’s reports are either “formula, pattern, compilation, program device, method, technique, or process.” What they were was a description of a product, which could no more allow any other company to produce a similar product than a description of a car could let another company make the same car.

    What’s more, how do you know that Think Secret’s source(s) were in fact Apple-authorised?

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Oh, and the formula for Coca Cola was printed, verbatim, in the appendix to the book “For God, Country and Coca-Cola” several years ago.

  • John

    Why does everyone do that when they see a list? It says “including”. The real definition is the independent economic value portion. The list gives examples of information, but does not exclude any other type of information.

    I didn’t say Think Secret’s source was under NDA. I’m just saying that the law requires that a company do something reasonable to protect its trade secrets. We know that Apple uses NDAs for that purpose, and Apple has said the info revealed had to have come from someone under NDA since Apple’s system is that only people who signed NDAs were given the Mac mini info – you know, all its direct employees, any contractor for marketing, distribution, production, etc.

    The Coke thing was just an obvious example of what people think of as a trade secret – IIRC that book was very complimentary of Coca-Cola and probably had the blessing of the company.

    The Think Secret description of the product included size and cost details that Apple claims gives it independent economic value. If HP or Dell cared, it could’ve, on the Friday before MacWorld, showed something like the Intel no-innards-mini to the world, and said it was building such a product for $400, for release in May. It would’ve stole much of the thunder from Apple’s innovation-image (which is what its brand projects to the mainstream market).

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Had Dell or anyone else tried to copy the mini based on the disputed Think Secret article, it would have ended up with a very different machine. To quote from the original (which is still available at http://www.thinksecret.com/news/0412expo2.html):

    “The new Mac, code-named Q88, will be part of the iMac family and is expected to sport a PowerPC G4 processor at a speed around 1.25GHz. The new Mac is said to be incredibly small and will be housed in a flat enclosure with a height similar to the 1.73 inches of Apple’s Xserve. Its size benefits will include the ability to stand the Mac on its side or put it below a display or monitor.”

    While that contains some points of the product, there’s no way on earth that would be an advantage to any competitor seeking to do a knock-off.

    Lots of people are talking about Think Secret’s report as if it was a blueprint for the Mac mini. It was, in fact, a long way from that and much more in line with the kind of purposefully-vague reporting you read in a thousand trade magazines.

  • John

    Your quote from the Think Secret article is just one paragraph. (By referencing the internal code number Q88, it is a giveaway that it came from someone covered by NDA.) The article contains many more specifics regarding the no monitor/keyboard/mouse direction, other innard specs (USB/Firewire/HD/optical drive,etc), and included software.

    Personally, I don’t think Apple cares at all that people publish rumors and speculate. They just don’t want anyone breaking NDAs, and anyone publishing info from the people who break NDAs.

    So if any trade journal wanted to publish the same specs as speculation, but without citing internal sources and numbers, I think Apple would leave them alone.

    Let me test this out:

    The next eMac will be an all-in-one 15″ LCD similar in style to Apple’s cinema displays, except white and the base will be a 2″ high square slightly larger than that of a Mac mini so as to house a 3.5″HD and combo drive (Superdrive option). It will use G4s, either 1.25 or 1.42GHz. It will have a single RAM slot in 256MB and 512MB configs. It is definitely not a project code-named “Q89”.