Florida man sues Apple for $10B over iPhone’s design

Ah, Florida. Whatever you want to call it…The Sunshine State. God’s Waiting Room. The Land of the Ultimate Participation Award. You can always count on Florida to provide the news you never find anywhere else. (See: Presidential Election, 2000, for starters).

There’s a reason why someone has set up the Florida Man Twitter page. Because when a story begins with “A Florida Man…”, well, just settle in for something that will be entertaining, at best, and also entertaining, at worst.

Today’s Florida Man is Thomas Ross. And he is launching a $10 billion lawsuit. But who is he suing? No, it’s not the developer who wants to build a championship golf course next door to his house. Ross is going big. Like really BIG. Like the going after the biggest kid on the block BIG.

Ross is suing Apple.

What could this businessman from Miramar (City motto: “Beauty and Progress”) have against Apple that is bad enough to want to sue the world’s most valuable company for the equivalent cost of 10.5 million iPhone 6s Plus phones with 128GB of storage? Well, that iPhone 6s Plus is part of the problem.

Ross is claiming that not just the iPhone, but the iPad and the good, ol’ iPod, too, infringe upon what he says his is 1992 invention of an Electronic Reading Device, or ERD.

According to an interview with the Guardian, Ross said he worked on his design for the ERD for about four months in 1992 before applying for a patent in November of that year. Ross told the Guardian that Apple’s products are “the very essence” of his ERD invention, and that instead of coming up with its own ideas, Apple “chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving” with regards to the company’s research and development efforts.

(Ross isn’t alone when it comes to being a David that is battling against the Goliath that is Apple. In April a woman from Detroit filed a $2 billion federal lawsuit against Apple, claiming the company stole her patented “computer wrist watch” when it created the Apple Watch.)

To put Ross’ claims in some historical perspective, remember that he applied for his patent in 1992. That was nine years before the first iPod debuted, 15 years before the first iPhone went on sale, and 18 years before Steve Jobs showed off the original model of the iPad.

But, according to the Guardian, Ross never paid the necessary fees that come with filing a patent application. That’s kind of like getting married, yet forgetting to sign your marriage license. After three years of waiting, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) declared Ross’ patent to be abandoned. So, if there was no patent, then Apple couldn’t have done anything wrong by Ross, right?

This is Florida, so you know the story has some legs left to run on.

Ross is now using copyright law in his case, Ross v. Apple, which he filed in the Florida southern district court on Monday. In addition to seeking $10 billion from Apple, Ross wants the company to give up the patents that he says his designs are based upon.

The case is new, so it’s possible the process server hasn’t put the suit papers into Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s hands yet. Then, again, maybe that process server felt the need to stop at a Florida Waffle House, just like this Florida Man did and got sidetracked on his way here?

Ross is representing himself in the case. “I am very confident,” Ross told the Guardian. “I believe in what I did. In spite of the odds, I feel that I have a shot at it.”

Call it one small step for Florida Man, one giant leap for Florida Mankind.

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6 Plus S during a media event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in September 2015 in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • tjwolf

    Hey, it’s the land of the lottery lawsuit, so what else do you expect?

    You mentioned that his case has legs because he’s using copyright law in his case – but how?

  • DaveN

    FloriDUH. The name says it all.