US man claims Apple stole his idea to make iPhone, seeks over $21bn

  • AFP, San Francisco
  • Updated: Jul 01, 2016 10:23 IST
The latest iPhone SE is seen on display during an event at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California on March 21, 2016. (Reuters file photo)

A Florida man has sued technology giant Apple and has sought billions of dollars for making a killing with his iPhone idea.

A lawsuit filed in a federal court in Florida this week by Thomas Ross argued that Apple “hijacked and exploited” a design he came up with in 1992 for an “electronic reading device.”

He is demanding damages of no less than $11 billion and another $10 billion in restitution, as well as at least 1.5% of Apple’s worldwide gross sales going forward “as a reasonable royalty,” according to the complaint.

In 1992, Thomas 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". (

Ross, who is representing himself in the suit, outlined his vision in several diagrams. He used the drawings in a patent application that the US Patent and Trade Office declared abandoned in 1995 for failure to pay required fees.

Last year Ross copyrighted his concept drawings, and his lawsuit contends that Apple products and packaging violate that copyright and his intellectual property.

In court paperwork, Ross accused Apple of adopting a culture of “dumpster diving” instead of creating its own ideas and argued that the invention pictured in his abandoned patent application was “sucked into” the company’s product line in a move he equated with identity theft.

Apple launched the iPod MP3 player in 2001, and the first iPhone was introduced six years later.

Ross said in the filing that Apple did not comply with a cease-and-desist order he sent the company.

Apple did not reply to an AFP request for comment, but the California company was quoted in media reports as saying that the suit is without merit.

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