The Dozier Internet Law Firm , a Richmond-based law firm that protects clients' reputations, trademarks and intellectual property on the Internet, has filed a lawsuit in Henrico County Circuit Court to protect its own trademark from Internet abuse.
The firm hopes to collect compensatory and punitive damages of $45,000 from Ronald J. Riley , a Michigan community college drop out posing as an intellectual property expert. The lawsuit alleges an extraordinary tale of audacity and fraud that swept up not only Dozier but John B. Fenn , the elderly Nobel Prize-winning chemist at Virginia Commonwealth University .
According to allegations contained in the firm's lawsuit, which can be found on its website , back around 1990, Riley was an unemployed community college dropout living in a mobile home. Using the Internet, he developed an elaborate scheme that grew in sophistication over the years to portray himself as a renowned and successful inventor. He made money as a consultant, offering his "feigned expertise" to help inventors and entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas and creations.
Riley created a series of businesses to build an identity and formed a tax-exempt corporation in 1994, " Inventored, Inc .", in which he listed himself as "Executive Director". In 2005, three years after the disbandment of a high-profile lobbying group, " The Alliance for American Innovation ," he incorporated a business by the exact same name, listed himself as president, claimed a Washington, D.C., address, and assumed the name and reputation of the group online.
In a similar maneuver, he purported to be an associate of Paul Heckel , a Silicon Valley inventor, entrepreneur and founder of a special interest group known as " Intellectual Property Creators ." Heckel has had passed away, and his organization was inactive and on the verge of being abandoned, but Riley claimed that Heckel had entrusted him to lead the organization.
Likewise, Riley has claimed to be a "Senior Fellow" of " The Center for Patent Policy ," which appears to be a non-existent entity. He has purchased listings in fourteen "Who's Who" books, and he claims to be a recipient of an honor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to have spoken on a panel at Harvard Law School .
"The success of Riley's fraud," continues the Dozier lawsuit, "is evidenced by his targeting of the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (a research professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a resident of Richmond, Virginia)." The lawsuit does not name John Fenn by name. Riley gained the elderly scientist's confidence and convinced him to join the Senior Advisory Board of the Center for Patent Policy, which is clandestinely owned by one of Riley's corporations. States the lawsuit: "Riley now uses this professor's association with his organization to further bolster his fraudulent credentials."
Summarizes Dozier: "Through this fraud, Ronald J. Riley has gone from an unemployed community college dropout living in a mobile home to an assumed identity of a credentialed investigative journalist, an associate of a Nobel Prize winner, the titular leader of seemingly prestigious inventor industry think tanks and powerful special interest groups, a Washington, D.C. powerbroker and friend of U.S. Senators and Congressmen, an award winning inventor revered by MIT, and a sought after speaker by the Harvard Law School. Riley has perpetrated one of the most successful business credential frauds ever committed upon the inventor and entrepreneur community."
Dozier also details Riley's tactics for driving traffic to his websites. Posing as an inventor industry whistleblower, Riley executes a three-pronged approach: (1) attacking competitors through the publication of "defamatory and outrageous" accusations on blogs, forums and social networking sites; (2) launching "sucks" sites against competitors, programming them so his websites appear when the company is searched, often containing trademark-infringing uses of the competitor's name, and (3) launching "sucks" websites attacking businesses -- American Express , Ameriprise , Northwest Airlines , Unilever - to generate attention and higher search-engine rankings. (Riley also launched a "sucks" website for his daughter's public school teacher, the lawsuit claims.)
Among the kinds of comments that Riley makes, Dozier cites:
Riley describes those who disagree with him as "paid shills" for the opposing viewpoint, Dozier alleges. He has threatened to gain access to the log files of online forums so he can obtain the IP addresses of posters and have his "research department" break through the anonymity and identify the posters. "The mere threat has prevented the earlier outing and disclosure of this fraud."
Hitting closer to home, Dozier alleges, "Riley is particularly fond of attacking law firms with whom he competes for the business of representing entrepreneurs and inventors in intellectual property negotiations."
In Dozier's case, the lawsuit contends, the Riley businesses have launched a Web page that contains twelve different instances in which the trademark "Dozier Internet Law" is exclusively used as anchor text in a hypertext link. As Dozier explains it, "An anchor link is supposed to describe the destination a visitor will reach when clicking on the link, and functions much like a road map with a shortcut. These anchor links, however, do not take a visitor to the Dozier Internet Law website. Rather, the links send the party clicking on them to the main website used by the Riley Businesses that offer services which directly compete with Dozier Internet Law."
Riley's diversion of traffic, Dozier says, "is similar to a department store using the name of a major competitor on its outdoor signage. Once a consumer has been lured to enter the wrong store, the consumer has been confused, and any consumer seeing the sign is likely to be confused by this false and misleading advertising and trademark infringement."