Reversing the Patent on Reverse Online Dating

For Friday enjoyment, I post Pirri v. Cheek. So far we only have a complaint associated with the dating site Cheekd that bombed on Shark Tank but is now gaining steam. [h/t Prof. Brian Love]

The idea behind Cheekd is “Online Dating in Reverse” – basically when you meet someone in person, you give them a business card links to your online dating profile. There is even a patent – U.S. Patent No. 8,543,465 claiming the process.  [US8543465]. You can read Claim 1 for yourself, but my quick review lets me classify the patent as quite low quality; very difficult to infringe; and likely invalid under 101 (abstract idea).

Now, here comes Alfred Pirri Jr, a mild-mannered “single man living in the New York tri-state area.”  Pirri had some difficulty finding a date — notably, he “keenly noted through his personal experiences that, although there were plenty of single people living in New York City, there were very few efficient ways a person could use to meet single people in order to date them.”  In particular, Pirri lamented that “In a crowded bar, a person could be standing 10-feet from the person’s future spouse and never know it.” Around 2006, Pirri then had the idea – of reverse online dating as described above although he never filed for patent protection, he did consult with a patent attorney who “confirmed that no identical nor similar ideas were ever disclosed in registered patents, pending patent applications and non-patent publications.”

Although Pirri kept his idea quite secret, he did disclose the details of his idea to his personal counselor Joanne Richards (a licensed clinical social worker).  According to the allegations, Richards disclosed the idea to a social acquaintance — “That social acquaintance was no other than Defendant Lori Cheek, one of the so-called inventors of the Cheek’d dating website and app.”

PirriComplaint

[PirriComplaint]

The tale goes on, but now we reach the lawsuit claiming:

  • Unenforceability of U.S. Patent No. 8,543,465 (for lying about inventorship);
  • Unjust Enrichment;
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty;
  • Misappropriation of Trade Secrets;
  • Unfair Competition;
  • Conversion; and
  • Fraud.

So far, we only have a complaint, but it will be interesting to watch to see how this moves forward.   Assuming the allegations are are true, how do you rule?

= = = =

UPDATE: Lori Cheek has contacted me to say that the entire story is a bizarre fabrication. 

= = = =

1. A method for personal meeting comprising the steps of:
an initiator developing a profile with a central organization;
the central organization providing the initiator by computer with a number of cards on which are printed at least an icebreaker, a website designation, and a code comprising elements corresponding to the icebreaker printed on the card;
the initiator giving the card to at least one recipient;
the recipient going to the website designated on the card;
the recipient entering the code printed on the card at the designated website;
the recipient being given access to the initiator’s profile with the central organization;
the recipient sending a message to the initiator; and
the initiator tracking activity comprising:

the central organization storing data by computer corresponding to when the recipient enters the code from the card bearing the specific icebreaker;
the central organization storing data by computer corresponding to when the recipient sends the message to the initiator after the recipient has received the card bearing the specific icebreaker;
the central organization compiling data by computer corresponding to a number of times the recipient enters the code from the card bearing the specific icebreaker and a number of times the recipient sends the message to the initiator after the recipient has received the card bearing the specific icebreaker; and
the central organization displaying the compiled data by computer to the initiator.

= = = =

11 thoughts on “Reversing the Patent on Reverse Online Dating

  1. “keenly noted through his personal experiences that, although there were plenty of single people living in New York City, there were very few efficient ways a person could use to meet single people in order to date them.” In particular, Pirri lamented that “In a crowded bar, a person could be standing 10-feet from the person’s future spouse and never know it.””

    lol. Next he’ll “learn” that meeting them and keeping them in a high singles area are two very different things and that the later is much more difficult if they’re of any small tiny or ensy bit of quality (and esp if they’re women and they have higher socio-economic status than you, but it’s also difficult for men as well). That and a few other things are literally why they’re “high single” areas.

    “The tale goes on, but now we reach the lawsuit claiming:

    Unenforceability of U.S. Patent No. 8,543,465 (for lying about inventorship);
    Unjust Enrichment;
    Breach of Fiduciary Duty;
    Misappropriation of Trade Secrets;
    Unfair Competition;
    Conversion; and
    Fraud.”

    What a moron.

  2. The inventor is the one who figures out how to reduce the idea to practice. The claim seems more than just the dating idea, it is directed to a specific implementation.

    Now if the implementation would be truly routine given the idea, then Pirri is the inventor or a co-inventor. If not, Cheek is the inventor.

    Assuming Pirri is the inventor, then the case for damages rests entirely on whether the disclosure to the personal counselor was confidential, Richards. Assuming it was, their was a breach of confidentiality by Richards. She might be liable to some degree for the breach. The facts indicate that the relationship between Pirri and Richards was professional and that confidentiality was expected. I wouldk rule in Pirri’s favor with respect to this communication.

    Next Cheek’s liability turns on whether she knew the idea given to her by Richards was confidential, regardless of whether she knew it came from Pirri. From the facts we know, relationship between Cheek and Richards was nonconfidential.

    Assuming it was nonconfidential, Cheek at every right to engage in the dating service invented by Pirri because Pirri never obtained a patent on the idea. However, she did not have the right to file a patent application naming herself as sole inventor to the extent that the the subject matter claimed as her invention actually is the invention of Pirri. From the claim, it appears that the novelty is in the idea invented by Pirri. Thus Cheek’s patent is invalid for not only not naming the proper inventors. It is also unenforceable for having been obtained by fraud.

    At a minimum, Pirri should win a declaration that the patent involved is invalid and unenforceable. Pirri may not be able to collect any damages for unjust enrichment from cheek or otherwise because it does not appear that Cheek knew the information coming from Richards was confidential.

    1. “From the claim, it appears that the novelty is in the idea invented by Pirri.”

      Ned, I don’t agree. The claim was allowed because it was an objected to dependent claim rewritten in independent form. The limitation that was allowable had to do with the “the central organization compiling data by computer corresponding to a number of times the recipient enters the code from the card bearing the specific icebreaker and a number of times the recipient sends the message to the initiator after the recipient has received the card bearing the specific icebreaker;”

      As I stated in my post in #6, i think the patentable aspect was first set forth in the patent, not from what Pirri initially disclosed. I don’t think what Pirri initially disclosed was novel (certainly not non-obvious), so I’m not sure Pirri really is an inventor. Some cases are in tension as to whether an inventor really needs to contribute a non-obvious feature to really be an inventor.

      It’s all moot. the patent is worthless based on the non-needed feature of counting the number of times the recipient sends the message to the initiator. In fact, this may be an error in the claim, why would the recipient send the same message (“the message”) a number of different times?

      I don’t think Pirri really has any claim for damages here. The patent is worthless, and since the USPTO rejected the general concept it is doubtful that Pirri could have gotten his own patent if Cheek had not filed hers. It is most likely void now under 101 anyway. I believe Cheek’s initial business model failed, so there would be no damages to collect for “stealing” Pirri’s idea (assuming Pirri could win the case). Pirri could still start his own such business if he wishes.

      Sadly, this is one of those cases where “only the lawyers will make m0ney.”

  3. Is there really an actionable breach of confidence here? If A tells B about X in confidence, but X is already known, does A really have a case against B when B discloses X to C? Surely, plaintiff has a valid ethical complaint against his counselor and she will have to answer to the proper disciplinary authority.

    But in this case, the “invention” to me sounds like: Lawyer sees potential client at a conference that Lawyer may want to do business with. Lawyer gives Potential client his business card. Later on, Potential client goes to Lawyer’s web site to read Lawyer’s bio. Potential client likes the bio and clicks a link on Lawyer’s bio to send Lawyer a message (via email or a firm contact form). While the issued claims contained much more detail than this, I am assuming what plaintiff disclosed to his counselor was just the general concept and did not contain such detail.

    What’s also troubling about this case is the co-inventors probably had no idea that Cheek (if true) received this info from someone else. So now the co-inventors are mixed up in a lawsuit without (presumably) any fault on their part.

  4. Seems that he likely blew the statute of limitations for many of his state law claims, having known of many of the bad acts in 2008. That may trigger laches and estoppel concerns.

    Also might lack standing for the inequitable conduct / uneforceability claims as he’s not been threatened with a claim of patent infringement. Why this was not coupled with an actual claim of inventorship is unclear because if he was an inventor he could dedicate it to the public or globally license and accomplish the same end.

    1. “Deep deep stuff” — even deeper deep deep stuff. Thanks Malcolm, I couldn’t remember a line from a short article that I had read 3 seconds ago. J34k.

  5. although he never filed for patent protection, he did consult with a patent attorney who “confirmed that no … similar ideas were ever disclosed in … non-patent publications.”

    ROTFMLAO I’d love to see THAT opinion because if Pirri wants to sue somebody that might be his best bet.

    U.S. Patent No. 8,543,465

    Heckuva job, PTO. This kind of junk, by the way, is the norm and not the exception. The context here makes reasonable people chuckle and roll their eyes but make no mistake: the “technology” (LOL) is just as laughable and junky as the “diagnosis your kid’s cancer” junk that the PTO is churning out like there’s no tomorrow.

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