Apple and Nike are the individual targets in a set of bizarre new lawsuits, each valued at upwards of $2 billion. According to the two lawsuits, which were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Daisy Washington-Gross alleges that the two retail giants infringed her “detachable beeper disc digital gym shoe computer wrist watch” design for which patent protection is allegedly pending. (Note: A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database does not reveal any pending patents under Ms. Washington-Gross's name, nor do the lawsuits assert patent application numbers).
Without the assistance of counsel, Washington-Gross filed one suit against Apple and Tim Cook (the company’s co-founder and CEO) for $2 billion, and the other against Nike, Inc., Thomas M. Horgan (counsel at Nike), and Robert M. Lyden (who served as Patents and Inventions Assistant, and Consultant to Nike from 1990-1998), for $3 billion. While the court documents, themselves, lack any significant amount of information, the complaint that Washington-Gross filed against Nike states: “The plaintiff wrote a letter to Nike, Inc. on November 10, 1995 in regards to a letter sent to Nike about the first Computer Gym Shoe called 'The Detachable Beeper Disc Digital Gym Shoe.' The letter was sent to Mr. Thomas M. Horgan and Mr. Robert M. Lyden. I wanted to see if Nike could have a shoe ready by the 1996 Olympics."
In the complaint filed against Apple, Washington-Gross merely states: "I would like a jury trial to prove the Patent Infringement of their 'Apple Computer Wrist Watch' and be awarded (2) Two Billion Dollars because of their infringement and because I was the first to put in for a patent for a 'computer wrist watch.'"
This is not Washington-Gross’s first patent infringement lawsuit. In fact, she filed a similar lawsuit against sportswear giant Reebok in 2000 lawsuit, in which she alleged to hold patents for a “Beeper Disc Digital Detachable Gym Shoe,” “Disc Digital with Time/Step Sensor Scanner Devices,” and “Micro-Chips.” That case was dismissed in 2001 in Reebok’s favor. However, it is worth noting that Washington-Gross has attempted to revive the case this year.
Not exactly a classically-trained inventor, Ms. Washington-Gross, 67, is an author and poet, who has published works entitled, “Twenty-Century Black Woman Defeats” in 1989, and “Beeper Disc Gym Shoe Kids Triplets” in 1987. Chances are, she is far more of a patent troll – (or "non-practicing entity" as the white house recently coined) is an entity that buys up ambiguous, vague or broad patents (typically patents that are not otherwise being used) and then tries to make money off of them by threatening to sue (i.e. demanding a license fee from) anyone who could arguably be said to be using them without permission ("infringing them") – than a technical inventor.