Pinterest Must Face Woman’s Suit Saying She Helped Create It

(Bloomberg) -- Pinterest Inc. must face a lawsuit from a digital marketing strategist who says she helped conceive the social media platform, a California judge ruled.

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Late on Thursday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Seabolt denied the company’s motion to dismiss the suit, but he eliminated co-founder Paul Sciarra as a defendant because he left Pinterest a decade ago.

Christine Martinez sued the company in September, saying she contributed key ideas to the platform but was never compensated by founders Ben Silbermann and Sciarra. According to her complaint, Oakland resident Martinez was friends with Silbermann when he asked her to “salvage a failed shopping app” that later became Pinterest.

She says she developed some of the main concepts for the platform, including features that allowed users to create “pinboards” reflecting their cultural tastes and created a marketing plan to enlist bloggers to recruit users. Martinez claims she was so integral to the site’s creation that Silbermann and Sciarra embedded her name in the platform’s source code.

‘Transformative Event’

Pinterest moved to dismiss the case in December, saying Martinez’s claims were too old and therefore barred by statute of limitations. But Seabolt said Martinez “sufficiently alleges” that the parties agreed to deferred compensation and that her claims stem from the company’s 2019 initial public offering. The judge called the IPO a “transformative event” that would trigger the obligation to pay her, while dismissing claims of conversion and unfair business practices.

Pinterest said in a statement that it was pleased the judge had thrown out some of Martinez’s claims. “As the facts come out, we are confident the evidence will confirm that Plaintiff’s claims are meritless and that the rest of this baseless lawsuit should be dismissed,” LeMia Jenkins Thompson, the company’s chief communications officer, said.

Courtney Devon Taylor, Martinez’s lawyer, said, “Pinterest and Silbermann tried to dismiss Ms. Martinez’s claims on a technicality rather than acknowledging her crucial role in Pinterest’s creation. We are pleased that the Court rejected their arguments and allowed the case to proceed, where we look forward to proving Ms. Martinez’s claims.”

But the judge said Sciarra’s early departure from Pinterest meant Martinez’s claims against him were time-barred.

“To the extent plaintiff alleges that defendants touted plaintiff’s contributions in the IPO, it is clear that these allegations do not include Sciarra who ‘left the company in 2012, just a few years after it was formed,” the judge said.

The case is Martinez v. Pinterest, RG21112456, California Superior Court, Alameda County (Oakland).

(Updates with comment from Martinez’s lawyer.)

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