Florida resident Thomas S. Ross has filed a lawsuit against Apple this week, claiming that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod infringe upon his 1992 invention of a hand-drawn “Electronic Reading Device” (ERD). The court filing claims the plaintiff was “first to file a device so designed and aggregated,” nearly 15 years before the first iPhone.
Between May 23, 1992 and September 10, 1992, Ross designed three hand-drawn technical drawings of the device, primarily consisting of flat rectangular panels with rounded corners that “embodied a fusion of design and function in a way that never existed prior to 1992.”
What Ross contemplated, was a device that could allow one to read stories, novels, news articles, as well as look at pictures, watch video presentations, or even movies, on a flat touch-screen that was back-lit. He further imagined that it could include communication functions, such as a phone and a modem, input/output capability, so as to allow the user to write notes, and be capable of storing reading and writing material utilizing internal and external storage media. He also imagined that the device would have batteries and even be equipped with solar panels.
Ross applied for a utility patent to protect his invention in November 1992, but the application was declared abandoned in April 1995 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after he failed to pay the required application fees. He also filed to copyright his technical drawings with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2014.
While the plaintiff claims that he continues to experience “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money,” he has demanded a jury trial and is seeking restitution no less than $10 billion and a royalty of up to 1.5% on Apple’s worldwide sales of infringing devices.