Apple Sends Out Lawyers over Tablet Photo Bounty Offer

Apple's lawyers tell technology blog Valleywag to cease and desist its offer of up to $100,000 for proof of the Apple tablet's existence.

As anticipation over Apple's carefully guarded-and unconfirmed-touch-screen tablet reaches fever pitch, tech blog Valleywag announced it is offering a $10,000 reward for "bona fide" pictures of the device, which is rumored to debut sometime between Jan. 25 and 27 during a media event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

In response to the contest, Apple legal representative Michael Spillner of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe sent a warning letter. "While Apple values and appreciates vibrant public commentary about its products, we believe you and your company crossed the line by offering a bounty for the theft of Apple's trade secrets," read the letter, whose authenticity was verified to The Wall Street Journal via an Apple spokesman. "Such an offer is illegal and Apple insists that you immediately discontinue the Scavenger Hunt."

Valleywag, part of the Gawker Media network, posted the entire letter on its site for all to read. The scavenger hunt offered four levels of prizes: $10,000 for a photo of the tablet, $20,000 for video of it, $50,000 for a photo of the tablet held by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) $100,000 to let the site test the tablet for an hour.

"We've had enough of trying to follow all the speculation around Apple's impending tablet - how it'll work, its size, the name, the software and whether it will save magazines," the post read. "We want answers, dammit! And we're willing to pay."

The bounty was apparently no laughing matter for Apple, whose tablet, which some say may not even exist, has been the subject of constant rumors for months. "Apple demands that Gawker Media immediately discontinue this program and retract the offer to pay for photos, video or samples of Apple's unannounced product," the letter continues. "We further demand that if you receive confidential Apple materials, you immediately inform Apple and refrain from publishing them."

Some in the Apple blog community (and Valleywag) have taken this letter as the clearest proof yet that a tabletlike device exists-why would Apple send a cease-and-desist letter for a product that doesn't officially exist?

Meanwhile, rumors continue to flow in from unnamed sources across the media landscape. Earlier this week, tech blog TG Daily reported that an employee of a design firm suggested Apple has been hoarding all the 10.1-inch touch-screen displays from Asian manufacturers, including pricey organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens.

In addition, this week the content from the Website of gesture recognition technology company FingerWorks, known for its TouchStream multitouch keyboard and for being acquired by Apple in 2005, was removed, leading to speculation that the company's technology will be featured in the tablet.

The device is widely thought to include Wi-Fi capability and a touch-screen interface, and cost somewhere around $1,000.

A recent research note by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said there is 75 percent likelihood that Apple will have an event in January and a 50 percent chance that it will be held to launch the Apple tablet.