"I don't have two cents to rub together," Katerina says. "I have to work really hard to make ends meet. My kids deserve more."
Katerina was inspired to get creative after a bra strap mishap. "For my triplets christening, I had a dress without sleeves," she says, showing a photo. "My bra is pinned on the inside of my dress so that it doesn't show on my back. I was having an anxiety attack over the thought of my bra straps hanging out."
So she came up with what she believed would be her big nest egg to help put all her kids through college. "There was no bra on the market where you can move the straps. I designed a bra with these features," she says. "I brought my portfolio and my patent to Victoria's Secret. I was excited, and then on the day of my appointment, they called me, and they cancelled. It was horrible. They were very rude. I was horribly crushed. A year later, I went into a Victoria's Secret store. There it was " my bra. That bra was to buy me time and get me financially set so I could be with my kids, and I still live like this. My triplets are in one bedroom. Victoria's Secret stole my bra. I'll make them pay for it."
"So you think you sent them your stuff, they looked at it, cancelled you and then went and made your product?" Dr. Phil asks her.
"Absolutely," Katerina says.
Dr. Phil looks unconvinced. "Did you do all of the research on prior art to make sure this wasn't an existing design, patented or otherwise?"
"Yes. You have to do searches. You can do a USA search, you can do a USA search with foreign references, and I did all my searches. I searched it on my own, through the US Patent Office, and it wasn't out there," she says.
DP turns to Ralph. "You say it's the corporations that are litigious. Are they taking advantage of the small players in the game in America?"
"Dr. Phil, she represents the individual inventor in American history who traditionally and still does provide the greatest breakthroughs in invention," Ralph says. "It isn't the collectivity, it isn't the committee, it isn't the corporation, it's the lone inventor, and they're up against the patent system, where the patent lawyers on the corporate side can grind an inventor into the ground. It's a real uphill challenge. Corporations love to rip-off the lone inventors, and I've been looking at this for many years, and so this is not an extraordinary, unique case on her part."
Dr. Phil turns to Stephen Key, consultant for the show American Inventor. He's no stranger to creating new ideas. He's been doing it for 20 years and says he's only lost two ideas in all that time. "What did she do wrong here, Stephen?"
"Well, I don't think she did anything wrong. From my experience, it's only happened two times in the last 20 years. I think it can happen, but I think it's rare," he says.
"Is this a company that's famous for doing this?" Dr. Phil asks. "It doesn't seem to me that this is their business of stealing patents."
"I don't know why it would be. It's bad [public relations]," Stephen says. "I think they're doing a lot of designs, of course, in the back room. You never know. I think it does happen, but I think it's rare."
"We did contact Victoria's Secret, and they declined to be on the show. They told us they cannot comment on pending litigation," Dr. Phil says.
Dr. Phil turns to Katerina's attorney, Charles von Simson. "You think she has a case here because why?"
"Well, I think she unquestionably has a case. Katerina's patent describes a very clever, very important new idea in terms of how this bra is structured and how it works," he says.
"How long do you think it will take you to get this to trial?" Dr. Phil asks.
"We're going to push as hard as we can to get it to trial within a year and a half, two years," Charles says, "but of course, Victoria's Secret has and will practice a strategy of delay to the extent that they can, because big corporations are funded. They have teams of attorneys to fight it, and they know when you're dealing with an individual inventor, that the harder they fight and the longer they delay it, the better chance that the inventor loses heart and gives up or goes somewhere else."
"The fact is, this can be a multi-year process, but you're going to stick with it, right?" Dr. Phil asks Katerina.
"I'll stick with it to the end," she says. In the meantime, Katerina says her product is being manufactured and sold through Fashion Forms, which has products in many different stores.
"So you're going to continue to put one foot in front of another," Dr. Phil says.
"Absolutely," she says.