Florida Man Claims He Invented iPhone in 1992, Sues Apple for $10 Billion

"Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving as an R&D strategy."

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A Florida businessman has sued Apple for $10 billion, claiming he came up with the "essence" of the iPhone, iPad, and iPad with his own creation back in 1992.

The man, Thomas Ross, told The Guardian that Apple is specifically infringing on his 1992 invention of an Electronic Reading Device (ERD).

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Ross worked on the device, which was going to feature a back-lit screen and media storage, for more than a year. In court documents, Ross described the device as one that would "allow one to read stories, novels, news articles as well as look at pictures, watch video presentations, or even movies, on a flat touchscreen."

The ERD would have also featured iPhone-like features and functionality such as phone support and a rounded edge design. It never advanced further than the design phase, however.

Ross initially filed a patent in November 1992, four years before the Palm Pilot came out and 15 years ahead of the first iPhone release in 2007. However, Ross did not pay the required fees to keep the patent application, and it was abandoned by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in 1995.

The man, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, argues that the iPhone, iPod, and iPad represent "the very essence" of his ERD device.

"Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving as an R&D strategy," Ross said. He added that Apple might have found his plans for the ERD in the USPTO database after it was abandoned.

That's "just the sort of place that Apple would have been delighted to rummage through and discover diamonds in the rough to be exploited," he said.

Ross sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter to CEO Tim Cook in March 2015. Apple's legal team wrote back to say Ross's claims "have no merit" and that Apple saw no "similarity between Apple's products and Mr. Ross's applications."

Despite the odds seemingly being very much stacked against him, Ross said he is "very confident" in his case.

Head to The Guardian to get the full story; there are many other fascinating details there.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Furwings

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This just in: Star Trek sues Thomas Ross for claiming he's the first person to ever think up this concept...

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Henninger

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The patent ran out. It'll get thrown out. He's wasting his time.

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Atzenkiller

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"Very confident in his case". After having let his patent run out. Yeah, I'm sure he'll win. Although considering that he's suing Apple, the most valuable company in the world, in the US he might actually win. He shouldn't have much trouble getting the best lawyers available with what's at stake.

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NbAlIvEr10000

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Good luck dumb ass.

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lostn

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Edited By lostn

Even if he had a valid case, there's no chance of winning it. Apple will sick their army of expensive lawyers onto him, and he won't be able to maintain his legal fees. They'll crush him like a bug.

But of course no one's going to believe he has a case. He's just a troll, like everyone else who waits 9 years before making an infringement claim. Why would it take this long to take legal action against someone who stole your idea?

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naryanrobinson

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“Florida Man...”

*grabs popcorn*

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BattleStreak

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So you sue now? At this point? Years later? BS.

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Nevsek

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So, he watched an episode of Star Trek, or just about any other sci-fi show and wrote a vague description of it to get a temporary patent. Then never produced any specific design specs or prototype to secure the full patent. That's my guess as to why he has to sue for the "essence" of it.

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thekazumalord

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this is one of the many reasons why people hate our country.. you can sue for literally anything even if it's not true

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Wraith3

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"The man, who is representing himself in the lawsuit"

That says everything you need to know...

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ArabrockermanX

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@Wraith3: Ya, if this was legitimate any lawyer worth his salt would have jumped on the opportunity free of charge because the pay out would be massive.

I guess there is a chance this guy done serious research and found some stupid niche law that can give him some sort of victory but I doubt it.

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almatha

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seriously? you guys giving this wacko attention? no way hes gonna win. Good luck with that chump.

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Pelezinho777

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Don't forget I get half!

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EdwardNygma

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@Pelezinho777: We'll give you half...........OF NOTHING!

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DeadrisingX1

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@edwardnygma: I wish I could like your comment again for that reference.

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EdwardNygma

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@DeadrisingX1: :)

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karenwen

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"iPad, and iPad"

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atherworld

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Edited By atherworld

OK, let's say he's not a complete nut. Apple's products have been around for ages. The iPhone is going on iteration 7. Why is he just waking up now? Oh wait, that ithingiemabob of Ap-Pul's sure seems like my ERD. Hey waaaaiiiiit!

He let the patent expire. Too bad for him.

Honestly, I think this guy repesenting himself has a fool for a client.

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RUMADBRAH

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How is this game related?

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BattleStreak

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@rumadbrah: It isn't, but GameSpot covers technology and entertainment as well.

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IIBlackknightII

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Something never changes in this world, keep it rolling the creation is still against the law & get sued after 5 years or more when it's running successfully.

I'm glad that Imagination is not against the law. Guess florida man forget his idea got improvised & got used by apple. I don't even know the truth & only original creator knows about it till date but likewise they say who knows.

But the amusing fact is he didn't tell Steve jobs about it in his face when he just announced first iPhone, why later in the game, seems awfully suspicious to me or he's just wasting his time to get some typical funny name/fame, etc after business is all about popularity, even negative influence makes no difference itself.

This case won't last that long.

Well, Whatever. Moving on.

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Oogazi

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Edited By Oogazi

This is why I hate the idea of patents. Register for a vague enough patent, and you could sue anyone for it. Either make it sufficiently difficult to get a patent, or get rid of the entire thing altogether and let the free market do its job. Imagine if someone patented the discovery of the wheel, technological progress would have been stunted by 1000 years. (yes, the end was hyperbole).

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OldDadGamer

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Edited By OldDadGamer  Moderator

@Oogazi: Except, it's really the other way around.

I mean, if there were no patents, no way you could KNOW you'd profit on your work, why would you do it? Would you spend years, all that time, all that money, inventing and innovating if you knew that everyone else could just sit on their butts, wait for you to spend all that time and money, and then steal your idea and profit themselves? No. You'd be crazy to. Anyone would be crazy to. It would make a lot more sense to be one of the butt sitting people, waiting to steal.

Thus, no inventors. No inventions. No progress.

Edit: Vague patents are not easy to get. You can't just write something on a napkin and mail it in and call it a patent. The patent courts are tough. VERY tough. So tough the patent bar is a separate bar.

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Oogazi

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Edited By Oogazi

@olddadgamer: I understand, but we had nearly over 4000 years of human recorded history with upward progress that didn't require the protection of patents. The idea that patents incentivizes innovation and discovery is still very much unproven.

And you're right about the difficulty and the costliness of patents. Which is why patents have been abused by corporations to eliminate/buyout competition. Those are the reality of the market and legal system in which we live. Even if there is no actual patent violation, corporations can use to the threat of legal expenses to halt or delay individual/small businesses from pushing their product.

Honestly though, I am being extreme in saying we shouldn't have any patents. I think the ideal situation is to allow patents to last for only about 5-7 years, in order to allow the inventor a first-mover competitive advantage, and disallow any kinds of extensions on patents.

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OldDadGamer

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OldDadGamer  Moderator

@Oogazi: They do last seven years, usually. The reason we don't have people ripping off iphones is that there are several patents involved in such tech, and every time you make a material improvement you can patent that. It's why, say, drug companies are always looking to take a drug and make a new formulation, or an extended release or something.

I mean, think of all the individual doohickeys that make up the computer or whatever you're typing this on. Some are still under patent (like, say, the CPU, unless your machine is really old). Some aren't, like, say, the switches in the keys.

Which is another reason this dude is nuts. Like, completely nuts. There's no "patent for an iphone."

I think the long lasting thing you're thinking of is copyright. That's for artistic and other creative properties, like music or books or paintings. Not technology. That's the one that lasts for 70 years or more.

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Oogazi

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@olddadgamer: well I know that copyrights and subsidiary rights and the like can last for an individual's lifetime, if they so choose to extend it. But I was under the impression that patents were 20 years or so, and that they could be renewed by making small improvements to the initial design or utility of the product.

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Barighm

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Patent thrown out when he failed to pay his fees. Open and shut case. Next.

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ArabrockermanX

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Edited By ArabrockermanX

@Barighm: Pretty much... The only way I can see him being successful is if Florida has some stupid law in its books that he plans to use against Apple. It happens sometimes, just usually in smaller cases.

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activeme4u2

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It's US after all, for some reason that blows me away one can sue for literally ANYTHING in this country. After I've seen a lawsuit won against Red Bull because the person did not get wings, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple settles for a few million...

If this dude doesn't get money he gets fame, either way, he's golden...

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OldDadGamer

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OldDadGamer  Moderator

@activeme4u2: You can, but really, most cases don't happen. I was a plaintiff's lawyer. I turned away over 90% of people who wanted to hire me. Sometimes, they were really, really wronged. For example, I had someone who was killed when his nurse misread a doctors order and gave him 10 times the insulin. We turned that case down. So trust me, frivolous suits are not common. It's far more common that people don't get what they deserve.

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activeme4u2

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@olddadgamer: I am very confused right now... Let me try to pan things out:

First: I mentioned ridiculous reasons people sue and you gave an example of a nurse killing a patient, this didn't add up.

Second: Why would a case like this be turned down? It does have enough merit. Or does "turn down" means you took the case? (I am not being sarcastic by the way, just confused).

Third: Do you think this guy was wronged? It wasn't clear in your response...

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OldDadGamer

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OldDadGamer  Moderator

@activeme4u2: My point was that there are far more cases of actual wrong that don't go anywhere than silly cases that get filed. That's all.

We turned the case down because there weren't any damages. In my state, we don't have punitive damages. Most damages, like the vast majority of damages, are lost wages. The victim in this instance was already a quadriplegic. He couldn't work. So, while there was merit, there really was no case at all.

So yes. The guy was wronged. Terribly wronged. And I had to look his wife in the eye and say "While your husband was wronged, in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, his life isn't worth anything."

If we're going to be angry at the system, let's not be angry at the stupid cases. Let's be angry that justice is usually much harder to find that stupid reasons to sue.

That's all.

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ArabrockermanX

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@olddadgamer: Agreed, I moved on from law for engineering because I didn't feel Justice was served most of the time.

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OldDadGamer

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OldDadGamer  Moderator

Dear lord. As a member of the bar myself, the words "representing himself" just cheese me off.

These dudes do nothing, I mean NOTHING, but waste time and tax payer resources. Ever. Filing cases is hard. Litigating cases is hard. That's why you go to school for a long time to learn how to do it.

Now a judge, who already has a backlog that's keeping legitimate cases from moving forward, has to schedule time to hear this, dismiss this, and move on.

For heaven's sake. You need a license to do pretty much every skilled profession from medicine to plumbing to cutting hair. And yet we let crazy people like this clog the courts up. Silly.

Ok, rant over.

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Thanatos2k

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Sorry dude, but no.

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ginobili1

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Idiot probably had nothing better to do.

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REDShadowG

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Well, fact, I came up with HotS when I was 12. I am 19 now. And then some years later, Blitz releases it, mostly like I always envisioned it. Some heroes have the same playstyles I designed them as, eg. Demon Hunter's hunter/kiter playstyle pattern.

We all come up with something that we abandon and someone else does it eventually.

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Byshop

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Byshop  Moderator

"The man, who is representing himself in the lawsuit..."

What was that old expression? A man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

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OldDadGamer

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OldDadGamer  Moderator

@Byshop: In the law, the technical term is dudeius mas crazyus.

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FanboyMan

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If this guy's invention never came to market and the patent expired, I don't see how he has a case, why Sue now? The iPhone's been out for almost 10 years! Sounds like a patent troll.

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scatterbrain007

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Every gadget loving human being on this planet has had the iPhone idea. Hell, I thought of a device like that when I was like 8. The earliest form of a device sort of like it would probably be Dick Tracy's video call watch thingy in the comics back in the 1930's.

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Nut_IX

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I have a friend that thinks Mark Zuckerberg stole his idea for Facebook when he sat next to him on a plane. He has been diagnosed with psychosis and stopped taking his meds. The brain does funny stuff when it starts to fail.

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cornbredx

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Edited By cornbredx

What I am about to say is a fact. I wrote a short story in 1997 (when I was in high school) that was about a serial killer that kills serial killers. The thing is, Jeff Lindsay published Darkly Dreaming Dexter first (in 2004).

So, suck it up. People have the same ideas all the time. It just seems like this guy is trying to get a piece. He should've finished his work first if he really was developing something.

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BDRTFM

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So Apple and Samsung are constantly suing each other over who stole this guys ideas first? That's rich.

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Sohereiam

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So, he wants the company? I mean 10 billion is basically the value of Apple in the market, he's either insane or just dumb, really dumb, maybe even a drug addict, like the heroin addict who claims to be Prince's son.

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Oogazi

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@Sohereiam: well, "shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

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mikemurphy80

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@Sohereiam: You really don't know much about how valuable companies are do you?

"CUPERTINO, California — October 27, 2015 — Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 fourth quarter ended September 26, 2015. The Company posted quarterlyrevenue of$51.5 billion and quarterly net profit of $11.1 billion"

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Sohereiam

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@mikemurphy80: Well, I wasn't aware, I knew Apple valued a lot and Apple lost a lot of value in the last few years so I came with an assumption of the 10 billion, but I imagined something close to 20-25 billions actually, I was really far.

So where do you found the link? I might find more things for my thesis on the university.

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mikemurphy80

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@Sohereiam: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=apple+corp+annual+revenue

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freedom01

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Edited By freedom01  Moderator

you already lost when you lost your patent

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