When considering charities and their associated goodwill activities, one of the furthest elements from one's mind are legal battles centered upon stolen concepts and products.
Usually, these elements are associated more with the business world -- but it seems this is exactly what is unfolding in a lawsuit filed by Peter Thum, the co-founder of an organization called Founderie 47, against Jessica Mindich, founder of Jewelry for a Cause.
It's a gun battle of epic proportions -- but it's not what you're thinking. Earlier this month, Reuters described the ugly spat that is unfolding between the two parties as follows:
A social entrepreneur is accusing a Connecticut designer who worked with Newark, New Jersey police to melt illegal guns into jewelry of stealing his idea and business model, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Peter Thum, a co-founder of an organization called Fonderie 47, claims he shared his idea with Jessica Mindich of Greenwich, Connecticut and her company, Jewelry for a Cause, who implemented it in Newark without his permission.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut last week, asks the court to prevent Mindich and her company from advertising themselves as the originators of the concept. It also seeks an undetermined amount of punitive damages.
So, Thum is accusing Mindich of stealing his gun melting program and claiming that it's her own conception. But the Jewelry for a Cause founder isn't admitting fault and is claiming, instead, that Thum is spinning untruths. In e-mailed comments to TheBlaze, Mindich explicitly addressed the legal drama.
"I did not start the Caliber Collection for fame or fortune -- neither matter to me. I just wanted to help. And I think I have," she said in an e-mail. "I don't know what Thum's true motivations are, but I do know that I will not let him stop me from getting guns off the streets."
In addition to these comments, Mindich sent over a lengthier statement addressing the issue. She noted that she believes the complaint "is without merit" and that her charity, Jewelry for a Cause, will fervently defend itself against Founderie 47's claims.
Speaking more generally to the issue of gun violence, the release recounts the history of "melting down guns and turning them into symbols of hope" - a passion of Mindich's through Jewelry for a Cause and the Caliber Collection.
In highlighting the many efforts that have unfolded over the past few decades to get illegal - and legal guns via hand-ins -- off of the street, Mindich even praised Founderie 47 for its efforts to remove "AK 47s from war zones in Africa and turns them into jewelry."
In her response to TheBlaze, Mindich also discussed, from her perspective, the roots of the complaint.
"Jewelry for a Cause created the Caliber Collection following a discussion with Newark, New Jersey Mayor, Cory Booker in December 2011," she explained (the entire story surrounding her charity is documented in a feature TheBlaze published earlier this year). "Founderie 47's Peter Thum was asked by Mayor Booker whether it was interested in helping address Newark's stockpile of guns but he declined to do so."
Her decision to work with Booker, she says, is rooted in the fact that Newark is plagued by gun violence. Mindich's efforts, through the Caliber Collection, are aimed at using buybacks to curb illegal gun use.
Reuters continues, providing more about Thum's claims against Jewelry for a Cause:
Thum claims he shared his concept and business structure in detail with Mindich at a conference for social entrepreneurs in December 2011.
He said the conference, whose location was not disclosed in the lawsuit, was covered by written and implied confidentiality provisions. [...]
Mindich told Thum she wanted to do something similar in New Jersey but he said no, said Thum's attorney, Judd Burstein.
Mindich promised in writing to abandon her project but nevertheless used the idea in the gun buy-back program in Newark in January, according to the lawsuit.
So far, Mindich's program has been successful, with $60,000 of the proceeds going back into the city's coffers. This money is then used for additional gun buy-backs, creating a self-sustaining cycle.
"We intend to continue our efforts to support gun buyback amnesty programs across America and in addition, help, through The Caliber Foundation, the victims and families impacted by illegal gun violence," Mindich's statement concluded.
TheBlaze reached out to Founderie 47 as well, but we have not received a response.
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