Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak faces a million-dollar lawsuit for allegedly stealing the concept for his Woz U tech schools.
According to Connecticut business professor Ralph Reilly, he and Woz came up with the idea and participated in (among other things) an on-camera handshake a decade ago.
The idea was to create a course for teaching computing and technical skills to adults. Wozniak’s name was there to provide credibility. In exchange for the rights to use Woz’s name and image, the Woz School of Technology would have paid the Apple co-founder a quarterly income. A report by Insider notes that Wozniak signed a contract. Woz does not dispute that it’s his signature — although he claims not to remember signing the document.
Unfortunately, the project never took off. Wozniak instead created a virtual Woz U in 2017, in collaboration with Coder Camps. Reilly said this is what he and Woz agreed to work on, but under a different name. “It’s exactly what I envisioned for Woz Institute of Technology when I first approached you with the idea,” he wrote upon the launch of Woz U.
Wozniak reportedly responded, “I doubt it would have happened without your initial idea!” However, attempts to establish partial ownership by Reilly were not successful.
Woz is hands-off when it comes to money
Woz’s defense suggests that no final, formal deal was reached on the proposal, and that the handshake was more of a photo op. They also say Woz takes a hands-off approach to business operations. Apparently, Woz U — while bearing his name — did not have any “curriculum, ideas on programs, schedules or anything else” created by Woz.
A previous report on Woz U — criticizing it for supposedly including low-quality teaching resources — had Woz U President Chris Coleman saying that Wozniak reviewed the course materials. Of course, that could mean anything from signing off without detailed checking to doing a line-by-line review of everything.
“One thing I avoid in life is anything having to do with money,” Wozniak said according to the latest court filing. “I just don’t look at it…. I wouldn’t know how much is in our bank account. My life is very different than most people.”
A three-day jury trial will start on June 7. Reilly is seeking $1 million in relief and damages.