A Florida man has accused Apple of infringing a 1992 patent on an “electronic reading device” that, in our view, looks nothing like the iPhone. He’s asking for $10 billion in damages. No, this isn’t an article from The Onion. It’s real life.
Thomas Ross included drawings of his device, a boxy rectangle with a screen and physical keyboard, in his court filing in Florida Southern District Court, which was obtained by The Telegraph. As you may recall, the original iPhone was the first smartphone without a physical keyboard. No matter, Ross says he was the first person “to have created a novel combination of media and communication tools.”
OK, so Ross’s drawings obviously look nothing like a modern-day iPhone. But let’s take his argument at face value: In 1992, Ross envisioned a device that would combine media-browsing and communications with a touchscreen display. Ross’s sketches include a modem, disk drive, and solar panels. Sounds pretty visionary.
One minor detail: Ross didn’t actually pay the fees required to file a patent application, which means the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office never granted those patents. They were classified as “abandoned” in 1995. He filed an application to copyright his drawings in 2014.
In addition to the $10 billion in damages, Ross is asking for 1.5 percent of all future iPhone sales (around $3.5 billion a year). He is requesting a jury trial to hear his claims in court.