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Angered that images of its new cube-shaped computer and optical mouse showed up on Web sites long before its scheduled product launch at the July 19 Macworld trade show, Apple Computer Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., has filed a trade secrets case against 25 unnamed defendants in California state court. Apple v. Doe, CV791550. Photos of Apple’s newest bells-and-whistles innovations — the cubical Power Mac G4 and the Pro Mouse optical pointing device — turned up on non-company Web sites as early as mid-February. As a matter of corporate policy, the company requires all employees to sign an intellectual property agreement acknowledging that they “will not use or disclose proprietary information without the written consent of Apple.” QUIET MOVE George A. Riley, a partner in the San Francisco office of O’Melveny & Myers L.L.P., is representing Apple in the case, filed on Aug. 2. The computer company has been mum about the litigation, but issued a statement acknowledging that the suit had been filed and that Apple is seeking both an injunction and monetary damages. In the complaint, Apple explained the bottom-line reason for keeping quiet about future new releases: “In Apple’s experience, public knowledge of future products often lessens sales of existing Apple products. As a result, Apple maintains and protects future product information as a trade secret.” Santa Clara, Calif., County Superior Court Judge Gregory H. Ward issued a subpoena in the case on Aug. 3 to a subsidiary of Santa Clara’s Yahoo!, where the offending images had allegedly been posted. The subpoena seeks the records of a Yahoo! GeoCities member whose log-in name is “worker bee.” According to the company’s privacy policy, customers’ “personally identifiable information” is released in response to “subpoenas, court orders or legal process.” Yahoo! gives customers 15 days’ notice, allowing them opportunities to consult counsel. The policy is shown at http://privacy.yahoo.com/privacy/us/.

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