Peter Thum of New York sued Jessica Mindich of Greenwich and her company, Jewelry for a Cause.
Thum implemented a program of buying AK-47 assault rifles from governments in Africa, repurposing them as jewelry and using a portion of the sales revenue to buy more illegal weapons, according to the lawsuit. Each piece of jewelry bears the serial number of the weapon used to make it.
He said he confidentially disclosed his concept and business structure in detail with Mindich at a conference.
Mindich implemented the idea in connection with a gun buyback in Newark, N.J., according to the lawsuit. It says she launched what she called "The Caliber Collection" leading to a proposal to sell bracelets repurposed from weapons in conjunction with MTV that will be promoted at the MTV movie awards this weekend.
"In other words, after having conducted a media tour in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook, Mindich secured a national stage for her company to profit through The Caliber Collection, a venture that is premised upon the lie that she, as opposed to Thum, was the first to implement a program of repurposing illegal firearms as jewelry," the lawsuit stated.
Mindich's attorney declined to comment, saying he hadn't seen the lawsuit.
In the charity world, success is tied to being the first to implement a program designed to solve a social problem, the lawsuit says.
"It is crucial that one be the first," said Judd Burstein, Thum's attorney. "That's who people want to work with, the person who had the idea, the person who came up with the concept. And that's what she's stolen from him."
Mindich admitted in writing that the idea to repurpose illegal firearms as jewelry originated with Thum, according to the lawsuit, which cites an email she wrote saying the seed of the project originated with Thum. Mindich promised to abandon the project, but later launched the Caliber Collection, according to the lawsuit, which does not name MTV as a defendant.
Thum says he'll donate any damages awarded in the case to charities working to reduce gun violence.