Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak faces a million dollar lawsuit for allegedly stealing the idea of starting a Woz-branded tech school, according to a weekend. Insider report.
Connecticut business professor Ralph Reilly says he and Wozniak agreed to create a “tech university” and sealed the deal with a handshake on camera in 2011. The educational platform, which aimed to teach adults computer science and other technical skills, would build heavily on Wozniak’s name and reputation as a key engineering force in Apple’s early days for branding purposes.
However, the partnership never got off the ground, Reilly said in court documents reviewed by Gizmodo and Insider.. Wozniak then launched virtually the same idea as Woz U in 2017 after partnering with code learning company Coder Camps. In response, Reilly contacted Wozniak by email asking him to be part of the company, according to court documents.
“This is exactly what I envisioned for the Woz Institute of Technology when I first approached you with the idea,” Reilly wrote at the time.
“You are right,” Wozniak replied. “You had the right idea… I doubt it happened without your initial idea!”
But when Reilly pushed back asking for a part property of the project, it was greeted by radio silence. Reilly sued Wozniak for intellectual property theft and copyright infringement. He is asking for at least $ 1 million in compensation and damages. Other charges brought by Reilly against Wozniak such as breach of contract have already been dismissed by a judge.
Insider reports that Reilly first approached him with the idea via email in September 2010. As the two corresponded over the next few months, at one point Reilly asked if Wozniak would consider endorsing it. to launch the “Woz Institute of Technology”, according to the court. deposits. Wozniak agreed to the idea and use of his name for the project in an email response.
In the aforementioned photo shoot in 2011, Reilly presented Wozniak with a contract granting an online school in Connecticut willing to work with them the right to use Wozniak’s name and image for the “Woz School of Technology.” in exchange for quarterly payments. In a screenshot shared by Insider, what looks like Wozniak’s signature appears in an image of the contract shown in court filings. In his testimony, Wozniak claimed that he did not recall signing the document, but did not dispute that it was his signature.
However, this deal ultimately fell through, as did several others that Reilly pursued with other institutions, at which point Wozniak’s team began to distance themselves from the project. When Reilly launched a website mockup for the Woz Institute of Technology in 2013, the director of Wozniak, Ken Hardesty, demanded that it be disassembled and told him to stop contacting Wozniak directly. Since Reilly secured copyright protection for this website, he’s now at the center of his million dollar copyright lawsuit.
For its part, the Wozniak team claims the two never came to a real deal on the proposal and that the aforementioned on-camera handshake was just one of the countless photo ops he regularly conducts with fans. A key part of Wozniak’s defense, according to a legal statement reviewed by Insider, is that he takes a hands-on approach to his business dealings and instead leaves contract negotiations to other members of his team. Even in his agreement with Coder Camps, Wozniak did not provide “any schedule, no idea about schedules, schedules or anything” to Woz U, his attorneys wrote in the file.
Namely, when asked by lawyers whether Coder Camps paid him $ 1 million for his association with Woz U, Wozniak claimed he did not recall whether he was paid for the deal, although his manager later confirmed that he had received the money.
“One thing that I avoid in life is anything that has to do with money,” Wozniak said according to the record.. “I just don’t watch it… I wouldn’t know how much is in our bank account. My life is very different from most people’s lives. “
The copyright infringement case will go to trial next month in Arizona, and Wozniak has been called to testify, Insider reports. Three-day jury trial set to begin in June 7.