Computer giant Apple has won the first stage of its legal battle to force three online reporters/bloggers including a teenage boy, to reveal who gave them secret information about the company’s new products.

The company launched the fight in December last year after details of a new product – codenamed ”Asteroid” – appeared on a number of websites before they had been announced by Apple.

The teen web editor had claimed he was covered by laws that grant journalists the constitutional right to protect their sources.

But a California judge ruled it was irrelevant whether he was journalist or not, saying he had effectively stolen trade secrets. Apple is now entitled to see the e-mail records from the teen web editor and other bloggers to uncover which employee has been leaking the information.

Californian laws protect journalists from prosecution if what they are writing about can be shown to be in the public interest. But Judge James Kleinberg said: “An interested public is not the same as the public interest”.

Apple is notoriously secretive about its upcoming products.

A recent posting about this incident

Teen Web editor drives Apple to court action