Watch Out for Invention Promotion Scams
Invention promoters who are dishonest will lie about your invention’s profit potential to get you to spend on expensive but ineffective services. If you want to avoid falling for an invention promotion scam, read on.
- What is invention scamming?
- Examples of how scammers work
- Do Your Research Before You Pay Invention Promoters
- Avoiding Invention Promotion Scams
- What to do if you were a victim of an invention promotion scam
- Report problems
- Other Resources
What is invention promotion scamming?
Invention promotion scams are fraudulent schemes in which companies or individuals claim to be able to help inventors patent and market their ideas, but in reality, they take the inventors’ money without providing any useful services. These scams often involve high-pressure sales tactics and unrealistic promises of success. Inventors should be wary of companies that charge large upfront fees or require exclusive rights to their ideas, and should also be cautious of companies that do not provide detailed information about their services or track record. It is important to thoroughly research any company or individual before doing business with them.
Invention promotion scammers often use a variety of tactics to deceive inventors and take their money. Some of the ways they may operate include:
- Cold calling or unsolicited mailings: Scammers may contact inventors out of the blue, claiming to have reviewed their ideas and expressing interest in helping them patent and market their inventions.
- High-pressure sales tactics: Scammers may use aggressive and convincing language to pressure inventors into paying for their services, often claiming that time is of the essence and the inventor must act quickly to secure their patent.
- Unrealistic promises: Scammers may make unrealistic claims about the potential success of the inventor’s idea, promising big profits and little risk.
- Upfront fees: Scammers may charge high upfront fees for their services, often promising that the fees will be used to conduct market research, file patents, or make prototypes.
- Lack of transparency: Scammers may not provide detailed information about their services or track record, making it difficult for inventors to verify their credentials or the legitimacy of their claims.
It is difficult to estimate the total amount of money that invention promotion scammers steal, as many victims may not report the fraud or may not be aware that they have been scammed. However, it is known that these scams can be quite lucrative for the scammers, as they often target vulnerable individuals who are desperate to patent and market their ideas.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), invention promotion firms have scammed thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars over the years. The FTC states that many consumers have lost $5,000 to $20,000 or more to these scams.
In addition, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has reported that invention promotion firms have taken in tens of millions of dollars from inventors over the years.
It’s important to keep in mind that scammers are not just after the money, but also after your idea and their ability to exploit it. They are not going to help you to market it, but to make money for themselves.
It’s important to be cautious and do your research before working with any invention promotion firm, and to be aware of the warning signs of a scam. It’s a good idea to consult a patent attorney or a reputable invention promotion firm before making any decisions.
It’s important to be vigilant and do your due diligence by checking here before signing any contracts or handing over any money. It’s a good idea to consult a patent attorney, or a reputable invention promotion firm, before working with any company.
Examples of Invention Scammers Work
The FTC laid out the case on how invention scammers bend the truth as follows:
- The defendants’ initial business model involved online ads that induced people to submit their product ideas. Salespeople responded, telling interested consumers that World Patent Marketing’s “review team” was researching the proposal because “the company is so selective with the ideas they choose to work with.” After a bit of a wait, salespeople called the would-be entrepreneur back to say:
- We had our final meeting with the Review Team regarding your idea. And basically from all the research that’s been done on [your idea], the research tells us there’s definitely potential to patent your idea. Because of that, I have the green light from the company to let you know that WPM wants to be a part of your new product idea and help you to protect it and bring it to the commercial marketplace. So, first of all congratulations! . . . The company loved your idea! They think it has a lot of potential. Especially the Sr. Product Director, who is in charge of which ideas are considered for the upcoming trade show. He sees some good opportunities ahead.
- But as the U.S. District Court concluded, those salespeople were reading the pitch from a script. In fact, “there is no evidence that WPM ever had a review team or rejected a large number of ideas.” What about the company’s “Global Invention Royalty Analysis” containing a marketability study created by a “Harvard University & MIT Research Team”? Despite the defendants’ claim that the “University” had given “the green light to continue,” the Court concluded that the defendants didn’t have a relationship with Harvard, MIT, or any other college.
- The defendants’ malarkey induced many consumers to pay between $9,000 and $65,000 for a “10 Point Patent Protection & Publicity Commitment.” (The pricier packages promised a “global patent.”) When consumers asked for updates, the defendants strung them along. Behind the scenes, the picture was less rosy because even when the company’s contract patent agents submitted applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the PTO typically rejected them as deficient.
- In addition to patent services, the defendants claimed to offer product development and marketing know-how, touting that “some of the world’s most respected brands trust World Patent Marketing,” including, for example, Target. The FTC isn’t the only one to say that was balderdash. A representative for Target testified that the defendants had no relationship whatsoever with the national retailer. The Court also cited misrepresentations regarding purported “success stories,” licensing and manufacturing agreements, and an “Invention Team Advisory Board” with big-name members who didn’t actually advise the company or review invention proposals.
- One anecdote is particularly telling. When an undercover FTC investigator contacted the company, the salesperson claimed that the History Channel had run a “whole segment” on World Patent Marketing. The truth? The defendants paid $17,000 to air their own ad on the channel. It ran once – at 6:00 AM on January 29, 2015.
Do your research before you commit
Tens of thousands of people attempt to market their ideas each year. You might be one of these people. There may be shady promotion companies looking for your help. It is important to research the person or company before you commit to working with them. Before you agree to work with them:
- Get information. Federal law You have the right to obtain information about an invention promotion company’s clients and operations before you sign a contract. You must be provided with information regarding the last five years.
- How many inventions were it able to evaluate
- How many inventions received positive or negative reviews?
- The total number of clients served
- How many of these clients made a profit using the firm’s services?
- How many of these clients have licensed their inventions through the firm?
This information will help you to determine the success of the invention promotion company, as well how selective it was in selecting the inventions it promotes.
- Look for complaints. Check for complaints. You can check the list of complaints against invention promotion companies and search the FTC website for past cases – go to ftc.gov and type in the keyword “invention.”
- See online reviews to find out what other people think. Some dishonest companies may post fake reviews and threaten to sue clients with intimidating charges such as extortion or defamation. How To Evaluate Online Reviews has more information.
- Check references. Get the names of previous clients. You can pick and choose which clients you want to speak with. Don’t depend on the promotor for specific names. Ask about their experiences. Did the promotion company keep its word? Are former clients happy with the marketing services of the firm?
How to Avoid Invention Promotion Scams
Honest invention promotion companies can assist mainly amateur inventors in developing and marketing their inventions. They can help you build prototypes and file patent applications. While they may promise similar services, dishonest promoters could end up charging thousands of dollars for very little in return. They will tell you there is a market for your invention, but they won’t be able to prove it. They will promise you that your invention will make them money, but no one can prove it. The truth is that few inventions make it to the market. Although they may claim to have access to or special relationships with manufacturers interested in licensing your invention for commercial use, you will have to first pay. After you have paid, you will find that there aren’t any such manufacturers. Here are some ways you can determine if you are getting genuine help from an invention promotion company or a con.
- Before you sign up, find out the total cost of all services . These are just two of the many services offered by invention promotion companies:
- A market analysis or research report that includes information about your customers, their locations, and any other details that can help you assess the marketability of your invention.
- These services may help you navigate the patenting and licensing processes.
Ask about the total cost of all services provided by the company, including marketing, research, and licensing. If the salesperson refuses, walk away.
- Do not pay in advance. Some promoters may tell you that you must pay several thousand dollars upfront. Reputable invention promotion companies don’t usually require large upfront fees. They rely on the royalties they make by licensing their clients’ inventions. If a company is excited about your idea’s potential market, but asks for a large upfront fee, you can take your business (and your ideas) elsewhere.
- Learn how they will market research. Is the company going to do it all themselves or will they have a market researcher hired? Many questionable companies won’t conduct any market research or market evaluations. Instead, they will give you a report that is “positive”, mass-produced and designed for you to buy more services.
- No one can guarantee your invention’s success. Invention promotion companies that are not trustworthy will tell inventors that their ideas have the potential to be commercially successful. Most ideas don’t make money.
- Do not believe the claims of a “global patent. Patents in the United States are issued by USPTO and last for 20 years. Maintenance fees are required. Promoters will often tell you that they will pay the USPTO for a global patent that is valid around the globe. There is no global patent. U.S. Patents are only valid in the United States and U.S. territories. They have no effect overseas. Each country in which you wish to obtain patent protection must be applied for.
- Make promises in writing. Make sure you have all terms in writing before you sign any contract with an invention promotion company. Sometimes, the salesperson may say one thing but the contract will state something completely different. Ask an attorney to review the agreement if possible.
Learn more about how to avoid an The USPTO has a scam to promote inventions .
What to do if you were swindled by an Invention promotion scammer?
It can be difficult to get your money back if a dishonest company takes your money. You might be able sue the company if you can prove that the promoter misled you or that you did not have the right information. American Inventors Protection Act . Depending on how much you paid the scammer it may also be Steps you can take To recover your money.