10 Billion Dollar Ideas That Were Stolen
Steve Jobs made a name for himself when he famously stated that Apple has “always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” but did the tech juggernaut steal a Florida man’s designs for an “electronic reading device”?
In June 2016, Apple found themselves in hot water when Thomas S. Ross decided to sue them for $10 billion, for stealing his idea.
According to Ross, way back in 1992, he filed a patent for an “electronic reading device,” a rectangular, hand-held gadget with a screen.
Included in the lawsuit filing are drawings of Ross’s original patent. He claims that Apple’s iPhone products are remarkably similar to his technical drawings.
Alongside the $10 billion-plus in compensation, Ross claims he is owed “reasonable royalty” of 1.5% of all of Apple’s future sales.
Considering that Apple made in the region of $200 billion in revenue in 2016, that would mean an extra $2 billion or so a year on top of the payout.
As of March 2017, the lawsuit is ongoing.
9. Harry Potter
Following the worldwide success of the first Harry Potter books, did the pressure to make an even better fourth book lead J.K. Rowling to steal some plot ideas?
Well, the family of Adrian Jacobs, a children’s author who died in 1997, seem to think so.
In June 2009, they tried to sue Rowling’s publishers, Bloomsbury, for around $600 million, accusing J.K. of plagiarizing “substantial parts” of his work in writing the novel ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’
In a statement, Jacob’s family claimed that a scene in ‘Goblet of Fire’ was significantly similar to Jacobs’ 1987 book ‘The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land.’
They said that both Willy and Harry are required to solve a task as part of a contest, which they achieve in a bathroom assisted by clues from helpers.
Rowling criticized the claims as “not only unfounded but absurd” and said she’d never even read The Adventures of Willy the Wizard.
In July 2011, the case was dismissed after the trustee of the estate of Adrian Jacobs failed to meet a deadline for paying the first stage of $1.8 million into court as security for costs.
Another day, another Uber controversy. The multi-billion dollar transportation network company and its CEO Travis Kalanick just can’t keep out of the headlines.
But did Kalanick even invent the concept of Uber in the first place? Entrepreneur Kevin Halpern doesn’t think so.
Halpern, the founder of a similar startup called Celluride, sued Kalanick for an eye-watering $1 billion in 2015.
He claimed that he shared his ideas about a GPS and cell phone-enabled taxi call-up service with Kalanick in 2006 and that Kalanick stole his idea to create Uber.
The lawsuit was also accompanied by a 12-minute video aptly named “Grand Theft Uber,” which laid out charges of Uber insiders taking Celluride’s ideas.
As of August 2016, Uber is battling more than 70 lawsuits in federal court including Kevin Halpern’s claim that he was the guy behind the groundbreaking taxi service idea.
7. Jack Daniel’s
In June 2016, the makers of Jack Daniel’s admitted that a Tennessee slave was behind its traditional whiskey recipe.
For 150 years, credit for teaching the young Jack Daniel on how to distil had gone to the Reverend Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher, and distiller in Tennessee.
However, the company admitted that it was not in fact Call but his slave, a man called Nearis Green, who provided him with the expertise.
You see, in the mid 19th Century distilleries were owned by white businessmen, but slaves did much of the work making the whiskey.
Green’s vital role in teaching Jack Daniel had been suspected but his contribution to the development of American whiskeys was never recorded and the distillery only ever rarely acknowledges it in some tours.
As of 2015, Jack Daniel’s is worth around $5.16 billion, and that’s pretty much all down to the hard work of Nearis Green and his unique recipe.
If you haven’t seen The Social Network, you might have missed that Mark Zuckerberg allegedly stole the idea for Facebook from his former college roommates.
19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg launched the site as a Harvard sophomore on February 4, 2004.
Just a week later, he was accused by three Harvard seniors, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, of having stolen the idea from them.
You see, in 2002 the trio developed a networking site fellow students at Harvard University could use, called HarvardConnection.
The project name was later changed to ‘ConnectU’ and was to expand to other schools around the country.
So following the release of Facebook in 2004, ConnectU filed a lawsuit alleging that Zuckerberg had broken an oral contract with them copied their idea and illegally used their site’s software code while he was working for them as a Harvard student.
The lawsuit was messy and lengthy and, as those of you who had seen the film would know eventually ended in 2008 when Facebook settled with the Winklevoss brothers and Divya Narendra handing them in the region of $65 million.
Facebook’s net worth as of 2016 is in the region of $10 billion.
For years, rumors have circulated that Microsoft, which has a revenue of around $85 billion did not create the source code for operating system MS-DOS, the pre-cursor to Windows, from scratch.
Some also say that the code was copied from the CP/M operating system, which was developed by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc.
Much of this speculation has been put to rest many times, but one man is confident Microsoft is not as squeaky clean as it makes itself out to be.
Bob Zeidman, an electrical engineer, has analyzed both systems multiple times and is yet to find any evidence to corroborate the plagiarism rumors, but he won’t give up.
In fact, in August 2016, he said that he would pay a $200,000 bounty to any person who could somehow prove MS-DOS ripped off CP/M.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to prove the allegation, there’s a couple of things you’ll need to do to claim the lot.
$100,000 will be given to the person who can use “accepted forensic techniques” to prove that MS-DOS was copied and the other $100,000 goes to the person who can find the mythical Kildall copyright function inside MS-DOS.
Now, for those of you who haven’t a clue what that is, the Kildall copyright function can supposedly print out a copyright notice in MS-DOS featuring CP/M creator Gary Kildall’s name. Aka the jackpot.
Since Oreo’s inception in 1912, a humongous 450 billion of them have been produced worldwide, and they have been labeled America’s favorite cookie.
However, they might have stolen the iconic cream-filled cookie from Hydrox, which first released their biscuits in 1908, four years before Orea hit the shelves.
Hydrox cookies single-handedly ruled the sandwich cookie market until Nabisco came along with their ” brand new product” the Oreo in 1912.
Sunshine Biscuits, which owned Hydrox, attempted to compete against their sweet rival Nabisco but because the latter was much larger and had a better marketing strategy, they took over the market.
In fact, Oreos became so popular that Hydrox started being perceived as the imitation and eventually in 1999 their cookies were discontinued.
Nowadays, Kraft, which acquired the Nabisco brand in 2000, brings in a hefty $1.5 billion in global annual revenues and the poor Hydrox cookie is nowhere to be seen.
LEGO building block is arguably the best toy in the world and provides kids and parents with hours of fun.
It’s such a simple yet utterly brilliant idea, you can’t help but wonder how the guys who started the company came up with it before anyone else.
Well, some people in the world believe they didn’t.
That’s thanks to Kiddicraft’s “self-locking building bricks,” which were created ten years before LEGO “invented” their blocks and to be fair look remarkably similar.
The story goes that in 1939, child psychologist and pioneer toymaker Hilary Fisher Page developed a visionary new toy: Hollow, plastic building blocks with four or eight studs that allowed children to build stuff with them, from little toy houses to massive plastic skyscrapers.
Eight years later, LEGO’s founder Ole Kirk Christiansen bought a plastic injection machine from a salesman who demonstrated the type of toys that could be produced with it by showing him some Kiddicraft play sets.
Christiansen then allegedly copied the Kiddicraft play sets right down to the little doors and windows that came with them.
The rest, of course, is history. LEGO went on to become a household name, with as of 2016 a substantial net income of $3.4 billion.
Page, in turn, ended up committing suicide in 1957 after his company went down the drain.
When Avatar hit movie theaters in 2009, it made a gigantic $2.7 billion in the box office.
But many viewers ridiculed it saying it directly copied films that came before it such as Dances With Wolves, FernGully: The Last Rainforest, and Pocahontas.
It wasn’t just movie fans and critics taking a dig though, but screenwriters too and one by one they sued Avatar’s writer-director James Cameron.
One of the widely discussed plagiarism suits is that of screenwriter Bryant Moore who insists Cameron’s Avatar is an amalgamation of two of his screenplays titled Aquatica and Descendants: The Pollination.
Moore filed suit against Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, in 2011, over copyright claims, seeking a hefty $2.5 billion in damages.
According to Moore, he submitted his screenplays to Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment in 1993 and 1994, and later got word the company wasn’t interested in his submissions.
Cameron said these were empty claims and in evidence, used the 45-page sworn declaration he created to detail how he conceptualized Avatar which was used successfully in a previous plagiarism lawsuit.
In 2014, a judge denied the copyright claim from Moore and the case was dropped.
As of March 2017, Snapchat is worth a whopping $33 billion.
But its road to success hasn’t been an easy one, and that is in part down to a Zuckerberg-style lawsuit about who the real creators of the image messaging app were.
The story goes that in the summer of 2011, three friends, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown former students at Stanford University, came up with an idea for a sexting app.
They soon realized it would be very successful, but the trio fell to pieces when Brown overheard a conversation between Spiegel and Murphy about how they wanted to oust him from the business.
Brown responded by withholding Snapchat’s patent documents from Spiegel and suing Spiegel and Murphy for his stake in the company.
Brown claimed he invented the concept, designed the ghost logo, and helped recruit Murphy.
After a lawsuit that lasted a year and a half, Snap Inc. settled with Reggie Brown in 2014 for $158 million, and Spiegel and Murphy still run the show.