A Chinese judge doled-out prison sentences to three people convicted of working to steal iPad 2 information before the product’s release in order to make cases for the device.
The story comes from the Wall Street Journal, which details the announcement by the Shenzhen Bao’an People’s Court about three people who collaborated on stealing the iPad 2 information. The court said the head of a Chinese electronics accessories company paid two employees of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which makes Apple devices, to leak him information in order to get a jump on the competition in making protective cases.
Here’s a clip from the WSJ story:
“The court announced the decision Tuesday in statements on its official account at Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service in China. It said that Xiao Chengsong, general manager of Shenzhen MacTop Electronics Co., had offered 20,000 yuan, or about $3,000, plus discounts on MacTop products to a former Hon Hai employee named Hou Pengna, for information about the iPad 2. The court said Ms. Hou then paid Lin Kecheng, a Hon Hai research-and-development employee, to get digital images of the device's back cover from last September, six months before the iPad 2 was publicly announced.”
Xiao, the buyer, received a sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of 150,000 yuan. Hou received a year in prison and a fine of 30,000 yuan, while Lin got 14 months in prison and 100,000 yuan.
The court also cited the fact that MacTop started listing and trying to sell iPad 2 cases in December, months before it was actually announced in March. The listings appeared on Alibaba.com, which removed them after it received a “legitimate” removal request. According to the court, the info theft cost Hon Hai pretty badly and constituted the theft of trade secrets.
Apple declined to comment on the decision, but it’s known for how strictly it polices information about its products. Hon Hai, for its part, is the world’s biggest contract supplier of electronics.
It goes without saying that stealing trade secrets is a bad idea, but it’s a seriously bad idea when Apple is involved apparently. A year-and-a-half in prison seems like a really long time for the chance to make cases for the iPad 2, maybe even a little harsh. And I highly doubt the example set by the sentencing will detract from more attempts to get an early look, and a jump on the competition, when it comes to future Apple products.