IP WATCH DOG - Apr 15 - "I wish I'd never filed for this patent," says Lori Cheek, founder of Cheek'd dating app. Her patent No. 8543465 addressed: A method, software product and card for personal online/offline meeting. She applied for this patent in 2010 and it was granted on Sep 24, 2013. Soon after, a friend suggested she apply to be a contestant on Shark Tank. Her episode aired in 2014. The criticism she received on the show did cause Cheek to reconsider the business idea. She and her partner soon after developed a Bluetooth dating app, abandoning the card-based approach.
Q: What happened after your Shark Tank appearance?
A: I got an email from Alfred Pirri lawyer. After seeing a rerun of my Shark Tank episode, he was claiming he had the idea for my business in 2006, told his therapist about it in 2008, and that she had then told me - even though I've never met the therapist in my life. He is suing me for ~$5M.
Q: How has this experience made you feel about the U.S. patent and legal systems?
A: I just don't understand how it can even go this far. I've joined forces with a group of other inventors who are reaching out to Congressman Jerrold Nadler to see if he can change the system to make it easier for inventors to hold onto and enforce their rights.
Q: What advice do you have for other aspiring inventors?
A: I would still say go through the motions and read up on the risks—definitely still get a patent, and trademarking is important. I've asked my lawyer what I could have done differently, and he said I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and that if I hadn't gone on Shark Tank, I wouldn't be here.
Cheek's lawyer, Lawrence Goodwin, said that Pirri's lawsuit is "a fantasy". "We've got solid evidence that she came up with the idea before Pirri even started the therapy," Goodwin said. But that doesn't change the fact that Cheek will have to shell out thousands while the case makes its way through the system.