Apple is a notoriously secretive company, and a cease and desist letter recently acquired by Motherboard sheds new light on exactly why, arguing that leaks harm accessory makers, consumers, and Apple itself.
The C&D order reportedly sent to a Chinese citizen by Apple’s lawyers in China, says that leaks about Apple’s iPhone dimensions could mislead case manufacturers, who might make accessories that are incompatible with the final product. As Apple puts it, “third-party accessory manufacturers may develop and sell mobile phone cases and other accessories that are not actually compatible with the unreleased products.” Motherboard notes that the market for Apple accessories is estimated to be worth almost $20 billion worldwide.
Apple also says that leaked info prevents the company from being able to surprise and delight consumers at launch events. “Apple has made every effort to take strict measures to maintain confidentiality for any information about Apple’s products before their official release to ensure that every time Apple releases a new product, it can surprise the public,” the letter reads. “The secret of Apple’s latest technological innovation is an important part of the company DNA.”
“Such situations harm the interests of consumers and Apple. Therefore, it is obvious that when the unpublished information about the design and performance of Apple’s products is kept confidential, it has actual and potential commercial value,” Apple’s letter reads.
The letter was sent as part of what appears to be a crackdown on the sale of prototypes of unannounced Apple products on social media. These devices are allegedly stolen by factory employees and sold to anyone that could benefit, often resulting in information about the products being made public far in advance of their official announcements.
Motherboard reports that the cease and desist letter it obtained was dated June 18th. It’s unclear how many individuals were sent similar letters, but it notes that the month coincides with the Twitter account of a seller, who went by the name “Mr. White,” disappearing from the platform. Also in June, a leaker known as “Kang” revealed on Weibo that they’d received a notice from the company, and indicated that they’d stop posting about upcoming devices.
Beyond what Apple outlines in its letter, there are a host of reasons why companies are widely understood to not want their unannounced plans to be made public. The release of confidential product information might allow competitors to start to develop copycat devices ahead of time. And hearing that an upgraded device is on the way could make people less likely to buy an existing model, per the so-called “Osborne effect.”