For a company that practically oozes smart, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) apparently employs more than its share of dummies. News.com reports that someone with access left a prototype iPhone at a San Francisco bar last month. The handset was still missing as of this writing.

I know what you're thinking. Haven't I heard this story before? Yessir, you have. Last year, Gizmodo paid $5,000 for an iPhone 4 prototype lost in a California bar. The ensuing brouhaha ended with Apple getting its device back, but not before prosecutors weighed levying charges against Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Now, the iEmpire is out another prototype, possibly the forthcoming iPhone 5.

News.com says the handset went missing at a tequila lounge called Cava 22. Police helped track the device using GPS, but a search of the house to where the prototype was supposedly taken yielded no results. Apple employees offered cash to the man living there but he refused, saying he had no knowledge of the missing handset.

Hey, have you heard the one about the engineer and the iPhone?
It almost sounds like a bad joke. You know, an Apple employee walks into a bar ... only this punchline comes with a police search, a massive payoff allegedly offered and refused, and a tight-lipped Apple quietly plotting a new Jedi mind trick to make us forget the incident ever happened. ("This isn't the iPhone you're looking for.")

I'm only half-joking when I say I think the gaffe could kick off a whole new line of black ops Apple products:

  • The iAnklet with built-in GPS, to track testers wherever they may be.
  • The iShocker, to deliver a small wake-up bolt when the handset is put down.
  • The iSoberizer with an edible sensor, to force nausea and call a cab when detecting alcohol in the bloodstream.

Sound draconian? Perhaps, but Apple competes in a tough market occupied by well-funded competitors HTC, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), and Samsung.

Mix in a well-known predisposition for jealously guarding secrets, and it's incidents like these that have to make both new Apple Chairman Steve Jobs and new CEO Tim Cook crazy. Expect them to take it seriously.

Do you agree? Disagree? Please weigh in using the comments box below. And if you're interested in more iPhone analysis, be sure to add Apple to your watchlist.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Research In Motion. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.