A man in Florida is suing Apple for $10 billion (£7.5 billion), claiming Apple stole his idea when it released the iPhone nine years ago.
Thomas S Ross filed a patent for an “electronic reading device” (ERD), a rectangular, hand-held gadget with a screen, in 1992.
His lawsuit says he was “the first to file a device so designed and aggregated as to have created a novel combination of media and communication tools… whose identity was, since then, hijacked and exploited by Apple’s iPhones, iPods, iPads and others”.
Included in the lawsuit filing are drawings of Ross’s original patent. Ross claims Apple’s own reproductions “are substantially the same as his technical drawings of the ERD, and that Apple’s three-dimensional derivative devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad), embody the non-functional aesthetic look and feel”.
You can decide for yourself whether Ross’s drawings look anything like your iPhone.
As well as the $10 billion-plus, Ross claims he is owed “a reasonable royalty” of 1.5pc of all of Apple’s future sales.
Given that Apple made $235 billion in revenue last year, that would be another $3.5bn or so a year.
Ross’s patent was never actually approved, given that he failed to pay the appropriate fees, and the application was declared abandoned in 1995. Nonetheless, he claims Apple resorted to “dumpster diving” when designing the iPhone and subsequent devices.
“Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving as an R&D strategy,” Ross’s lawsuit says.
It quotes Steve Jobs, who once said that “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”, and claims that Apple has caused Ross “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money”.
Ross is demanding a jury hear a trial in the Florida Southern District Court.