Apple has no shortage of cash in its vaults, so it's pretty easy to see why the tech giant is constantly slapped with lawsuits of questionable merit. From disillusioned complaints of Siri's capabilities to a bizarre sodomy suit filed against late founder Steve Jobs, here, seven of the sillier challenges the Cupertino powerhouse has faced through the years:
1. The grandma who walked into an Apple store
Evelyn Paswall, 83, walked into her local Apple Store in Long Island to return an iPhone. Sadly, she never made it inside, smashing face-first into the store's signature glass doors and breaking her nose. Now, Paswall is suing Apple for $1 million, claiming the tech giant's pristine glass facade is a hazard to older customers. "Apple wants to be cool and modern and have the type of architecture that would appeal to the tech crowd," says her attorney, "but on the other hand, you have to appreciate that danger that this high-tech modern architecture poses to some people." Though Apple puts small white warning strips on its glass exterior as a warning, Paswall and her attorney claim the precautions aren't enough.
2. The subpar virtual assistant
Frank M. Fazio says he was so wowed by Apple's ads touting Siri that he plopped down $299 last November for an iPhone 4S. But he soon bitterly concluded that the ads were "false and misleading," he says in a class-action lawsuit filed March 6. Instead of breezily "using Siri to make appointments, find restaurants, and even learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs" as Apple users do in the commercials, Fazio encountered a dimwitted and sluggish Siri. "Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or, after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer," Fazio's suit alleges. Siri is clearly, "at best, a work in progress." Well, Apple lists Siri as still being in "beta," says Natalie Musumeci at NBC Chicago. That means she is, in fact, a work in progress.
3. The thinnest of them all
On Sept. 14, 2011, Apple officially won the right to call its iPhone 4 the "world's thinnest smartphone" when Britain's Advertising Standards Authority dismissed a legal challenge from Samsung. The Korean electronics giant had protested that its Galaxy S II phone, at 8.71mm, was in fact thinner than the iPhone, at 9.3 mm. "Apple was forced to get out its measuring tape (the iTape?)," says Britain's The Guardian, to show that while the thinnest part of the Galaxy was thinner, Samsung's phone had "prominent bulges at the top of the device" that measured 9.91 mm. The ASA agreed that customers care about overall size, not just the thinnest part.
4. The Mafia's mind control
This lawsuit "defies all logic," says Chris Foresman at Ars Technica. On July 15, 2009, Beverly Hills resident Gregory McKenna sued Apple and nine other defendants — including the FBI, St. Louis Police Department, and an auto mechanic — for $14.3 million, saying they'd conspired with the Mafia to threaten him into returning to work at an allegedly Mafia-owned modeling agency. Apple, McKenna said, put illegal receivers in his two iPods, allowing the Mafia to transmit clear threats, including "I'm going to kill him," in sync with his music. "Our initial reaction is to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all," said Ross Miller at Engadget at the time, but "if by some stroke of fate he manages to prove it was all one big conspiracy perpetrated by the Mafia, well, guess we'll be ending up with egg on our faces."
5. The angry "butt-head astronomer"
On Nov. 17, 1995, Apple "amicably" settled a "loony" lawsuit with famed astronomer Carl Sagan. The legal battle started when Sagan learned that Apple engineers were using his name as the internal code name for the Power Macintosh 7100. He complained that this constituted an implicit, unauthorized endorsement, so Apple engineers gave the 7100 a new code name: BHA, apparently for "butt-head astronomer." Sagan sued for defamation, and lost, then sued again for the original use of his name, lost again, then appealed. Apple lawyers insisted the tech team come up with a new handle: The 7100's final code name was LAW, for "lawyers are wimps."
6. The phony color claim
In a May 2007 lawsuit "widely derided as frivolous," two photographers sued Apple over its claim that its MacBook LDC screens displayed "millions of colors," says Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune. In fact, the screens are "only capable of displaying the illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique," claimed plaintiffs Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley. Apple quietly settled in March 2008 for undisclosed terms, but as Elmer-DeWitt notes, Macs continued to list the option of displaying "millions of colors."
7. The imagined offense
An Oct. 15, 2007, lawsuit "lit our Bizarre-O-Meter so brightly," we couldn't turn away, says Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica. Jonathan Lee Riches sued Apple, Steve Jobs, and Philip Woolston, an employee of the South Carolina federal prison where Riches is serving time, claiming that Woolston had tried to sodomize him with his iPhone. According to the suit, the alleged assailant Woolston claimed to be personal friends with Jobs, and threatened to use that connection to punish Riches if he spurned Woolston's smartphone advances. Riches, it turns out, regularly files bizarre lawsuits, including a September 2007 gem in which he alleged that O.J. Simpson had been working as a hit man for Jobs since 1985. A month after lodging his iPhone sodomy suit, Riches filed for a voluntary dismissal. "Philip Woolston and Apple Computers sexually assaulted me in my dreams and not in real life," he conceded. "I can't sue a dream."
This article was originally published on March 15, 2012, and last updated on March 27, 2012.
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