Millions on the Table

Dallas inventor sues for millions over popular restaurant tablet technology

Dallas inventor sues for millions over restaurant tablet technology

Frisco inventor Andrew Silver claims that TableTop owes him $3.5 million for breaking a patent purchase agreement for the Ziosk technology.  Photo courtesy of Ziosk

A Frisco man who claims he invented the tabletop tablets showing up chain restaurants such as Chili’s is suing the Dallas company that distributes them, claiming he never got paid even though he had a patent purchase agreement.

Andrew Silver, who is being represented by Houston firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., filed in Dallas County District Court on March 2, seeking $3.5 million from TableTop Media, LLC, distributor of the Ziosk tablet. The lawsuit claims that the company has installed “about 75,000 Ziosk devices in more than 1,350 restaurants in all 50 states — including every Chili’s Bar & Grill location and Abuelo’s location in the U.S.”

The suit also says that Ziosk has control of 95 percent of the restaurant tablet market. 

Silver’s suit contends that in 2008, he and TableTop entered into a patent purchase agreement that would pay Silver between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, depending on when TableTop purchased the patent from him. In a contract with what appears to be TableTop’s letterhead, dated April 14, 2008, TableTop lays out the royalty payments that would be issued if they purchased Silver’s patent, and the escalators from each subsequent 12-month payment until the total sum was paid off.

Attached to the contract is a $100 bill for consideration to make the contract enforceable, according to the contract and Silver’s lawyer, Tim Shelby.

The suit says that Silver is a “prolific inventor and a robust entrepreneur” with more than 40 patents to his name. Silver was issued a patent for his tablet technology, which was originally developed in 2002, in 2012, but since then, TableTop has not paid him any of the royalties, according to Shelby.

“Honestly, why they’re not paying is a complete mystery,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to us at all. The contract is very clear, but TableTop doesn’t think it owes any money. We don’t understand the rationale. It’s very clear that they don’t want to pay anything.”

Shelby says that when the patent was issued in 2012, Silver and TableTop discussed the patent, but not payment. The suit claims that the first royalty payment was due to Silver on December 31, 2013, but TableTop missed that and the second payment a year later.

Silver’s relationship with TableTop dates back to 2002, the suit alleges, when eventual TableTop co-founder Jack Baum was introduced to Silver’s creation following a pitch at STARTech in October of that year.

“In early 2003, Silver was invited to make a second, hour-long presentation to STARTech about his invention, which garnered Baum’s official signed endorsement,” according to the suit. In August 2003, Silver switched his patent application from Provisional Patent Application 60/404,462 to Non-Provisional Patent Application No. 10/642,841. That Non-Provisional Patent Application number is the one referenced in the contract attached to the petition and also the one for Silver’s eventual patent No. 8,224,700.

The suit also alleges that Baum founded TableTop to “commercialize Silver’s invention and revolutionize the restaurant industry. Soon thereafter, TableTop and Silver began discussing TableTop purchasing this patent application and the rights to any patents issued thereunder.”

In a statement, TableTop denies claims that Silver is owed money and references another lawsuit it filed against Silver, which alleges their agreement was for a different technology than Ziosk’s:

TableTop Media, LLC received formal notice yesterday of the lawsuit Mr. Silver filed against us, which follows the lawsuit we previously filed against him. We vigorously deny the claims made in the suit. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we have no further comment at this time.

Shelby says that TableTop has claimed they owned the patent to Ziosk’s technology. “That goes against them claiming that the contract is not enforceable,” he says.

TableTop has 30 days from March 2 to respond to the petition, but Shelby says his firm is prepared to take the issue to a jury trial.