Thomas Ross claims that he worked on the invention for more than a year, drawing on his experience as a software consultant. His efforts resulted in 3 hand-sketched technical drawings of the Electronic Reading Device and filing a patent in 1992.
The invention was conceived as a reading and writing device, with a back-lit screen, able to store media on the device and on remote servers. Ross, who now works as a manager at a law firm, filed a patent 4 years before the Palm Pilot launched and 15 years before the first iPhone. The Electronic Reading Device was conceived to allow one to read stories, view images and watch video on a flat touchscreen, having communication functions like a phone and a modem, and would come with rounded edges in various sizes.
Aside from the 3 hand-scribbled images of the Electronic Reading Device, the inventor also created a flowchart illustrating how media could be requested and downloaded from a remote server along with a description of the purpose, look and feel of the device. However, that invention has never been taken further than the design stage due to the lack of funds. Back in 1992, the inventor failed to pay the required fees and had his patent application declared abandoned 3 years later by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Instead of using patent law, he now sues Apple with copyright law.
A year ago, Ross’s lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to Apple, requesting them to stop distributing the infringing products. Apple responded that the claims “have no merit” and pointed out that Ross was not able to show any evidence that Apple had accessed the patent applications. However, this response didn’t deter Ross, who filed the lawsuit with the US district court, seeking $10bn in damages and demanding Apple to forfeit the patents derived from his designs.
Industry experts call it just a nuisance case filed by an individual hoping to make some money out of it, who doesn’t even have a US patent and just pulled a $10bn number out of nowhere.