Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled in Apple's favour on Friday and ordered three online reporters to turn over their confidential sources to the company.

Lawyers for the Web sites argued that reporters for online publications are covered by the same First Amendment rights and California Shield laws that protect journalists employed by print publications from having to reveal their sources and unpublished material.

The judge disagreed with that argument saying that "no one has the right to publish information that could have been provided only by someone breaking the law," according to the Associated Press.

Judge Kleinberg explained that even if the writers were defined as journalists "this is not the equivalent of a free pass". He described the information about Apple's unreleased products as "stolen property" comparing the trade secrets to a laptop computer. He said: "The bottom line is there is no exception or exemption for journalists," reports The Guardian.

"The rumor and opinion mills may continue to run at full speed," Kleinberg wrote in the 13-page ruling. "What underlies this decision is the publishing of information that at this early stage of the litigation fits squarely within the definition of trade secret. The right to keep and maintain proprietary information as such is a right which the California Legislature and courts have long affirmed and which is essential to the future of technology and innovation generally."