“Florida Man” tales are legendary, even in the tech field. He does everything from jamming cellphone signals on his daily commute to asking Siri where to hide a dead body. The Florida Man’s latest antics may well include suing Apple for $10 billion USD and claiming he invented an "iPhone" prototype in 1992.
Thomas S. Ross (of course Mr. Ross is actually just from Florida and not related to the aforementioned escapades), filed a patent for an “electronic reading device” in 1992. Ross's patent was never actually approved, because he failed to pay the appropriate fees. The application was declared abandoned in 1995. He also filed to copyright his technical drawings with the United States Copyright Office in 2014.
Image is from the lawsuit
Ross remarked that he was “the first to file a device so designed and aggregated as to have created a novel combination of media and communication tools… whose identity was, since then, hijacked and exploited by Apple's iPhones, iPods, iPads and others.”
Ross is demanding a jury hear a trial in the Florida Southern District Court. Ross is not only demanding $10 billion, but "a reasonable royalty" of 1.5% of all of Apple's future sales. Apple made $235 billion in revenue last year so Ross would make roughly $3.5 billion a year assuming Apple maintains this revenue. Ross stated, “Instead of creating its own ideas, Apple chose to adopt a culture of dumpster diving as an R&D strategy.” He also argued that Apple has him "great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money"
His design includes several feature that the iPhone and subsequent products do not have. The sketches incorporates a cell antenna, MS-DOS, solar cells, and a 3.5-inch diskette drive. Ross' device also contains a physical keyboard. Early iPhone developers often claimed that the lack of a physical keyboard was one of Apple's greatest innovations.
Ross sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter to CEO Tim Cook in March 2015. Apple's legal team wrote back to say Ross's claims "have no merit" and that Apple saw no "similarity between Apple's products and Mr. Ross's applications."
The plaintiff is “very confident” in his case.