back to article Steve Wozniak to take stand: $1m suit claiming Woz stole idea for branded tech boot camp goes to trial

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will face a trial next month in an Arizona district court over allegations he stole the idea of a Woz-branded programming boot camp. The original complaint [PDF] was filed in 2018 by Ralph Reilly, an assistant professor of management at Connecticut's University of Hartford. Two of the five claims …

  1. TimMaher Silver badge
    Facepalm

    TOPS

    In 1978 I got a 20 week programming course, in an actual building with real lecturers, paid for by the government.

    I also got the dole and my travel expenses.

    Later on, when I was employed, we recruited one of our lecturers.

    I and an associate also helped get another lecturer a job at a nearby bureau services company (remember them?) to which I was now a customer.

    Steve should be embarrassed to have his name associated with any of these worthless shysters.

    Let’s hope that they fail and Steve learns.

  2. knarf

    Woz all the fuss about

    $1M do doing naff all except pay lawyers now.

    Woz woz an electrical engineer not software, ok he likely did a fair bit of 6502 on AppleII.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Woz all the fuss about

      That doesn't explain all that code he wrote.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Woz all the fuss about

        Woz is probably like many of us who have a background in electronics AND also got really good at programming computers. Being an expert on BOTH hardware and software gives you a lot of advantages, especially for system-level code and IOT things.

        I have to wonder how many people getting EE degrees end up writing code instead...

        (this is especially true when microcontrollers, FPGAs, and robotics are involved, and for that last part, mechanical engineering as well)

        1. Robert Grant Silver badge

          Re: Woz all the fuss about

          Yes, he was part of the group of people that invented software engineering.

  3. J27

    You can't copyright that kind of idea. Common thing + your branding isnt a unique idea, but even if it was it would be too obvious and simple to get copyrightable.

    This guy has no case.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

      In my opinion, this issue is not copyright; the name of a school is a trademark (TM)/service mark (SM) depending on if you view the education sold as a product or service. (Remember, US law, you fine folks in Blighty, Oz, and elsewhere; not sure if your law differentiates.)

      How can anyone other than Woz himself create/own a TM/SM for a school name/logo based on Woz's name unless it was a licensing agreement and Woz essentially "sold" his name away? Thus, there would have been money changing hands and Woz may indeed owe this guy something.

      If the initial "school" had its own curriculum developed, that could be copyrightable, and if copied by Woz later, that's an issue, however the article indicates both attempts were going to use someone else's coursework.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Does it have to be this Woz or will any Woz do ?

        I remember an interview where he said they were going to do a "Who do you think you are?" type show - but Wozniak is like the Polish equivalent of Smith

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      You can't copyright the idea of a branded thing, but you can copyright the specific designs for the branding. And just because it's your own face doesn't mean someone else can't own the copyright to things like logos and such based on it. The claim here isn't simply that Steve Wozniak copied the idea (although that certianly does seem to be the actual motivation behind it), but rather that the specific details created for one business venture were copied and used for another without permission. If you look at the original filing (linked in the article), the copyright claim would seem to boil down to how similar exhibits H (the original) and J (the second attempt) are to each other.

      Which would seem to fall completely flat on the grounds that they don't look anything like each other. Woz U looks like it was thrown together in five minutes by someone with access to a single photo of Wozniak and a generic business/academic text generator. They can't have copied the logo, because it doesn't even have one. Other than containing the word "Woz" and his face appearing somewhere at some point, there is no similarity at all. The Woz Institute of Technology looks like it at least had a competent web designer involved at some point.

      So the copyright claim is a valid claim that is allowed to see its day in court, but it's pretty much guaranteed to fail because it's obviously complete nonsense. However, that does still leave the breach of contract, which contrary to the claim in this article, has not been dismissed. The counts that were dismissed were for "money had and received" and "accounting". IANAL, but as far as I can see those were connected claims that basically wanted to see the accounts to know how much money Woz U made, and then have some of it. The breach of contract claim is the only one left that seems to have any legs - the final count is for declaratory relief, which as far as I can tell means the court will officially state that Reilly is in the right and Woz did copy his idea and needs to pay for it. But I don't see how that would mean anything if all the other claims alleging actual damages fail.

      So overall, two claims have been dismissed and one doesn't really matter on its own. The copyright claim is techically valid but obviously stupid. The breach of contract claim relies on a verbal agreement, a handshake and a subsequent email, so it's only an implied contract and not actually a signed document. Which looks fairly shaky, but I think does have real legal standing so is probably the only thing keeping the case alive.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      This guy has no case.

      I think we need to know what contracts were signed before making that determination.

      (But I suspect you are right)

  4. 45RPM Silver badge

    I don’t know the ins and outs of it, and I’m not sure that I really care. It’s all very well having a good idea, but your good idea is just puffery if you don’t do anything with it. If you do something with it then you deserve protection, if you don’t then you’re just being vexatious if you seek legal redress.

    And whatever else he may be, electronics whizz, coding whizz, inventor, prankster, Woz is not a great businessman. He says that it doesn’t interest him, and his actions back up his words. Sure, he shouldn’t have signed the paper - but in his philanthropic heart he probably thought that Wrecker Ralph was a good guy, and that he’d be encouraging future generations by lending his support.

    On the face of it, Ralph Reilly is just doing his best to get the whole of geekdom to hate him. Seriously, darling of the geek world (and love Apple or hate Apple, Woz did some amazingly cool things - and probably got more screwed over by Jobs and Apple than almost anyone else, and yet still found it in his heart to forgive. The man is a legend!) vs some puffed up fraudster? Screw that guy!

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    So, coding boot camps are copyrightable ?

    That's news to me. I've taken part in some, do I need to send a check somewhere ?

    I don't think so.

    This is apparently a breach of contract, not a copyright issue, and if you're in a breach of contract with Steve Wozniak, well it's a rich man's issue I can't bring myself to be bothered about.

    Ever since Trump University I would be wary of any organization using a famous name anyway.

    1. HereIAmJH

      Re: So, coding boot camps are copyrightable ?

      Breach of contract was my thought too. Which makes me wonder if Woz was compensated by Reilly. If there was an exclusivity clause. And if there was a timeline for performance. Surely Reilly didn't expect to use Woz's name forever.

      The article hints at copyright on marketing materials. So I wonder if it didn't just have the wrong focus, and the lawsuit is not actually about a competing boot camp using his name. In the end apparently both failed.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: So, coding boot camps are copyrightable ?

        It is possible the contract specified that it was in perpetuity, although that is unlikely.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  7. Confuciousmobil

    My idea

    I had the idea in 1965, I just never told anyone. Can I sue?

    1. quxinot

      Re: My idea

      Oblig:

      https://xkcd.com/827/

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: My idea

      what if the idea was suing someone for having the same idea you did but you had it first?

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