British Investor Believes Apple Stole His System — Seeks $18B in Damages
British inventor Patrick Racz, known for creating the world’s first three-way mixer tap, the Triflow, finds himself in a bitter legal battle against Apple.
Reflecting on his struggles, Racz says to The Guardian, “I lost everything. I had young children. I was embarrassed, upset that I’d let my family down. I couldn’t look them in the face.”
The Highs and Lows of Racz's Legal Battle with Apple
Racz says that Apple owes him $18 billion for the technology behind the App Store and iTunes — which he says he invented in the late 1990s. His legal conflict with Apple reached a peak when he was awarded $533 million in damages in 2015, a significant victory for the inventor, The Guardian reports.
However, this triumph was short-lived. The U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board later invalidated his patents, and subsequent appeals in commercial courts favored Apple.
The Emotional Toll of a Long Legal Fight
Patrick Racz’s legal fight against Apple is not just a business dispute but a deeply personal battle. He has faced significant emotional challenges throughout this period.
Racz openly shares his struggles, saying to The Guardian, “I went through a period of deep depression.” He adds, “I’m ashamed to say I hit the bottle. I was totally lost in a haze of time, and I couldn’t remember a lot.”
Patent Disputes: A Common Challenge for Apple
Apple has been involved in numerous patent disputes, including a notable case where sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the U.S. were paused due to a patent standoff with tech company Masimo, The Guardian reports.
Racz’s ongoing legal battle with Apple over patent claims adds to this history, illustrating the tech company’s frequent entanglement in intellectual property disputes.
Racz's Early Life and Career Shift
The Guardian reveals that Racz’s early life was spent on a strawberry farm in Jersey, followed by a successful career in sales.
After selling his tap business, Avilion, he ventured into the digital download market with his company SmartFlash in 2000. Fortune reports that Racz subsequently acquired patents for media storage systems that included songs and videos.
The Innovative Triflow Tap
Racz’s claim to fame was the invention of the Triflow tap in the 1980s, a notable innovation in the plumbing industry, per information from The Guardian.
The Triflow was the first of its kind to offer a three-way system, providing hot, cold, and filtered water. This invention proved to be a commercial success, expanding Racz’s business to 45 countries. However, it was his foray into the digital download market that led to a complex legal confrontation with Apple.
High Profile Partnerships and Subsequent Fallout
In the early stages of his tech venture, Racz garnered support from high-profile partners, including pop star Britney Spears and French sim card company Gemplus.
However, The Guardian reports that following the 9/11 attacks and the dot-com crash, these partnerships dissolved. Racz claims that Gemplus, which had connections with Apple, appropriated his product ideas. This perceived betrayal contributed to his decision to sue Apple.
Online Backlash and Personal Harassment
The legal battle with Apple has resulted in severe online backlash for Racz. He has faced significant personal harassment, including death threats.
Racz describes the impact of these threats to The Guardian: “Those things start to sting — when you’re told that your kids should be burned at the stake and that you should be beheaded for what you’re doing.”
Allegations Against the U.S. Patent Office
Racz’s fight extends beyond Apple; he accuses the U.S. Patent Office of bias. According to The Guardian, he alleges that the patent panels were unfairly influenced by Apple, and he is suing the Patent Office for refusing to disclose certain documents.
Racz aims to prove that the patent system has been manipulated against his interests.
Apple's Perspective on the Dispute
The Guardian reports that in response to the allegations, Apple has maintained a firm stance, denying any wrongdoing.
The company told The Guardian in 2015, “Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented.”
Documenting the Struggle
Racz has detailed his journey in an autobiography titled “Smartflash” that has attracted interest from publishers, The Jersey Evening Post reports.
Furthermore, Racz told The Guardian that his friend Simon Morris, former global chief creative officer at Amazon, has taken up the task of selling rights for a documentary about Racz’s life.
The Determination to Continue the Legal Fight
Despite the challenges, Racz remains committed to his legal battle against Apple. He is supported by private investors who share his pursuit of damages.
Reflecting on his journey, Racz tells The Guardian, “They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger — it’s made me even more determined.”