One man is suing Apple for $10bn, and he thinks he can win

30 Jun 2016

It might seem like an ill-advised move, but one man is about to launch a $10bn lawsuit against Apple over a claim he patented the iPhone in 1992, and he has said he is “very confident” he can win.

The man in question who plans to take on Apple, a company valued at $586bn, is businessperson Thomas Ross, who claims that the company’s three best-known devices – the iPhone, iPod and iPad – are all based on his once-patented Electronic Reading Device (ERD).

Rather than being a prolific inventor, however, Ross only ever patented this one device, having hand-sketched the design while working as a software consultant during the early-1990s and filing the patent in November 1992.

Cloud storage and a touchscreen

According to The Guardian, who Ross has spoken to following his filing of the lawsuit, Ross had originally conceived the ERD as, unsurprisingly, a device that would let you write and read, as well as storing media, with an additional cloud storage option.

This also meant it would have online connectivity to make and receive phone calls via an additional modem.

In the court documents submitted for this lawsuit, Ross expanded further on the ERD, saying it would allow the user to “read stories, novels, news articles, as well as look at pictures, watch video presentations, or even movies, on a flat touchscreen”.

‘Dumpster diving as an R&D strategy’

Ross believes he has a strong case given the similar functionalities found on the iPhone, and many other modern devices, despite it being drawn up 15 years before the iPhone even launched.

Having never taken his idea past the concept stage, claiming the costs of getting a device off the ground was too much, Ross has accused Apple of having a culture of “dumpster diving as an R&D strategy”.

Ross furthers this accusation based on comments made by the company’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, who said that the company had been “shameless about stealing great ideas”.

Apple, unsurprisingly, is having none of Ross’s claims, with its legal counsel, Jeffrey Lasker, responding to Ross by saying that there is no evidence to suggest its devices were based on the ERD, other than his own claims.

‘In spite of the odds, I feel that I have a shot at it’

Unlikely to help Ross in his case is the fact that Ross’ patent was declared abandoned by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 1995 after he failed to make the necessary payments to keep his right to the patent filed in 1992.

Despite the obvious challenges involved, Ross remains confident that he can win the $10bn he is claiming is owed to him.

“I’m against some very esteemed and well-known attorneys. They know what they’re doing,” Ross said.

“I am very confident. I believe in what I did. In spite of the odds, I feel that I have a shot at it.”

iPhone6 image via endermasali/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic