Florida Man Claims He Invented the iPhone in 1992

He accuses Apple of "dumpster diving" and stealing his wasted patent.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Thomas Ross, a native of the great state of Florida, is suing Apple computers for $10 billion because he says the company copied his plans for a smartphone-like device he drew in 1992.

Thomas Ross, a Florida Man, is actually low-balling himself a bit, as Apple’s iPhone has brought the company more than $31 billion in revenue (as of 2014, so it’s way more than that now). Still, Florida Men are not historically known for their rational legal decisions, and Ross had decided to go all-out on Apple, who he says owes him a lump sum up-front and a cut of all future sales of the product (which is the iPhone, which he claims to have invented 15 years before Steve Jobs got up on stage and debuted it in 2007, just in case you were still unclear on that).

While it probably won’t get very far in court, Ross did give us a few wonderful legal zingers in his lawsuit where he accuses the tech giant of sifting through the wasteland of old patents for good ideas:

“Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of Dumpster diving as an R&D strategy,” his lawsuit reads.

The problem is, Ross’s design … isn’t an iPhone. Sure, it’s a rudimentary device meant as a portable computer with a thumb-sized keyboard and a screen, but it is very much not an iPhone. See for yourself:

Congrats, man, you drew a sketch of a Palm Pilot. 

Florida Southern District Court

The other big problem is Ross never actually got a patent for the device. He failed to pay the appropriate fees (which were substantially less than $10 billion, but follow your dreams, Ross), and the patent was officially declared abandoned in 1995, according to The Telegraph. Ross’s original patent was for an (ERD), or electronic reading device. His initial sketches had what appeared to be a dual screen device that opens like a book, with one screen as a “reading device” and another as a “writing device.” It’s loaded with all kinds of clumsily-drawn good stuff like “MS DOS 5.0” (fancy), “solar cells,” “rechargeable battery,” and “back-lit LCD super-twist display screens (monochrome or color),” which for 1992 would have made the thing a technological marvel (if it ever became more than a sketch, which it didn’t).

Enough features for an infomercial, maybe.

Florida Southern District Court

Still, Ross’s lawsuit claims the modern iPhone and other iDevices “are substantially the same as his technical drawings of the ERD, and that Apple’s three-dimensional derivative devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad), embody the non-functional aesthetic look and feel.” We think it looks a lot more like a bulky early-model Kindle or just one of the original [Palm Pilots](

You don't get $10 billion for making a sketch of a PDA.

Wikimedia Commons

Palm’s first PDA device came out in 1996, four years after Ross filed his patent. Then again, the Palm Pilot brand isn’t exactly a multi-billion dollar business now. It appears Ross thought Steve Job’s comments in 1996, when he uttered the famous “Good artists copy, great artists steal” quote in an interview, applied to him.

He directly quotes Jobs in the lawsuit as saying “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” which Ross says has caused him “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money.” But $10 billion would sure be a start. Ross wants the Florida Southern District Court to hear his case in a trial. We cannot confirm whether or not that will happen.

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