Earlier this week, we reported on Lori Cheek, an independent inventor and founder of Cheekd, who is defending herself for the second time against accusations brought by Alfred Pirri, Jr. of fraud and misappropriation of trade secrets, among other claims, and who feels like the U.S. patent and legal systems have done her few favors thus far.
Following publication of the article, Pirri’s lawyer, Steven Fairchild, sent a letter to IPWatchdog claiming that, since the previous suit was thrown out in pre-trial conference, before discovery or a decision on the merits, the “present suit will uncover the truth of what happened with Mr. Pirri’s invention.” Fairchild specifically points to notarized documents from 2006 that he claims prove Pirri invented the dating cards and their spin-off use for business, which Fairchild says Cheek copied in her other company, Networkd.
As mentioned in the previous article, Cheek denies she has ever met Pirri’s therapist, Joanne Richards, whom Pirri claims first told Cheek about his idea. She and Richards have signed sworn affidavits attesting to as much, and Cheek insists there is simply no way she could have come in contact with Richards.
“Discovery will reveal the truth of the relationship between Ms. Richards and Ms. Cheek,” wrote Fairchild in his letter to IPWatchdog.
Fairchild also points to a speech Cheek gave on November 16, 2016, titled, “Fake It Till (sic) You Make It.” “It is a curious title,” he wrote.
Cheek explained that Entrepreneur Magazine approached her in October 2016 and asked her to deliver a speech on that particular topic. “They gave me this title to speak about and I built a speech around it. This is so ridiculous,” Cheek said.
She also sent IPWatchdog a screenshot of the above pictured email, indicating that she had developed the prototype for the cards in 2008. “I had these designed in April of 2008 before Pirri even met his therapist for the first time,” Cheek said.
Cheek also emphasized that there were other similar companies to hers operating both before and after she launched. “Pirri’s so-called ‘dating card idea’ also landed in the hands of several others around the same time as and even before me. We were not the only ones, but I was the only one who made it as far as national TV to get the kind of exposure that would lead to a viewer finding out about it.,” she said.
Help On the Hill?
As part of her self-proclaimed “mission” to change the landscape for future inventors, Cheek teamed up with six other New York City-based inventors to send a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in February, asking him to meet about “how the patent system is harming inventors and entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities, and what you can do.” The letter continues:
Without your help just a few very large companies will continue to dominate the U.S. economy. They will persist in exploiting our data and ideas. They get to choose what innovations come to market at what price and under what conditions and who gets credit. We’ve followed the rules and paid our fees to the USPTO, but we do not enjoy the exclusive right to our inventions explicitly guaranteed to us in the Constitution. Today the fashion is to let big companies steal and force inventors to litigate again and again, burning through precious time and what little cash we may have. This ploy is called ‘efficient infringement and we’d like you to hold a hearing on this topic.”
“There’s no protection for inventors; something has to change,” Cheek said of the letter. “I’m so fired up about the system this time around that if this is my new mission life, so be it.”
Fairchild, perhaps misunderstanding Cheek’s broader intent in reaching out to Nadler, said that “Mr. Pirri and I would love a congressional hearing on the relationship between Mr. Pirri, Ms. Richards, and Ms. Cheek. However, that is far premature, and we should let court discovery happen first. In the meantime, I would suggest for her Congressman to read our complaint and its exhibits with the same professionalism and open mind that Hon. Englemayer has demonstrated to Mr. Pirri.”
To date, Nadler has not responded to the inventors’ letter, but with both the Senate and House IP Subcommittees currently focused on ways to encourage more women and minority inventors and entrepreneurs to obtain U.S. patents, perhaps he eventually will.
In the meantime, Cheek continues to grapple with legal costs she says she can’t afford.
“Countless businesses fall prey to shady lawyers and delusional or unethical people. Exposing these people and law firms is the only way to fight this behavior and prevent other business owners from enduring crushing court costs, negative PR and financial destruction.”