Apple is no stranger to patent trolls and questionable lawsuits, but this latest claim may take the cake. A Florida man says he came up with the idea for the iPhone over 20 years ago and now he’s suing Apple for $10 billion.
Thomas Ross filed a patent for something called an Electronic Reader Device (ERD) in 1992, submitting several hand-drawn images at the time. The design featured a back-lit touchscreen display along with what look like physical buttons. It would be capable of storing media, displaying text, playing videos and displaying photos.
Ross says he developed his ERD for more than a year before filing the patent. However, he failed to pay a required fee and lost the patent in 1995. He’s suing Apple over copyright law instead, and actually argues that the lapsed patent only strengthens his case.
“Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving as an R&D strategy,” Ross told The Guardian, adding that his drawings ended up in “just the sort of place that Apple would have been delighted to rummage through and discover diamonds in the rough to be exploited.”
Ross admits that he’s up against Goliath and he doesn’t exactly have the strongest case, but he’s not willing to give up. “I am very confident,” he said. “I believe in what I did. In spite of the odds I feel that I have a shot at it.”
Before filing the lawsuit, Ross actually contacted Apple directly, sending a cease and desist letter to CEO Tim Cook. The company’s lawyers responded that the claims “have no merit,” which likely pushed Ross to take his case directly to court.
We doubt the story will progress much further. Like we said, Apple is used to dealing with these types of claims and the company has a seasoned legal team that should be able to make short work of this latest lawsuit.