Be wary if you go into any kind of meeting with a firm that purports to help inventors do it all, and remember the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The unfortunate reality is that many invention help companies are really only in it for themselves. How can you know which ones are legitimate and which ones are just interested in taking you for a ride?
Marketing and Promotions
One giveaway is that the company claims to both pursue patent protection and handle marketing promotions. These are entirely separate processes, with each one requiring a very specific set of skills and expertise.
Pursuing patent protection is best left in the hands of an experienced attorney who focuses on this area of the law. This is because a patent application will be examined by an attorney who works for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Accordingly, it is necessary for the application to comply with numerous legal requirements. It typically is necessary for the applicant to make legal arguments to the Examiner at the patent office regarding the patentability of the invention. A patent lawyer is qualified to make amendments and arguments that are more likely to result in an issued patent.
As far as promotion is concerned, a patent attorney isn’t truly qualified to help. This means that it is necessary for some kind of marketing and advertising professional to take over.
This means that a legitimate invention help company will need to have at least two distinct departments: One that pursues patents and one that handles promotions.
Unless the company can introduce you to dedicated professionals in these two distinct areas, you’re probably wasting your money.
Invention Rejection Rates
If you are interviewing an invention help company, ask them about their product rejection rates. Ideally, you want to hear them name a high rejection rate. This demonstrates a commitment to only working with inventors who seem to have a superior invention. They pour all of their efforts into a product that they believe in, and the rest go into the rejection pile.
On the other hand, if the invention help company says that they accept most inventions, take your time and money elsewhere. This is a sign of a company that isn’t primarily interested in bringing the best products to market. Instead, their goal is to get as much money out of inventors as they can.
Up Front Payments
Similarly, you may want to think twice about invention companies that demand up-front payments. Without a doubt, it is expensive to get a new product from the idea stage to being on store shelves, but be wary of any company that promises to get the job done for a really low price.
Chances are good that this company is not genuinely interested in bringing your product to the market. The company forces initial buy-ins to get their hands on your wallet. Suddenly, extra costs start to emerge. At the same time, company representatives seem reluctant to provide you with even a ballpark estimate of how much the whole process is likely to cost.
This is a major red flag, as is an offer of financing. Be especially wary if financing is available, but only if you act right now. The company is demonstrating their commitment to getting your money and their lack of interest in anything else. Don’t let high-pressure sales tactics reel you in. Take your time, and make a carefully considered decision.
The reality is that taking a new product from a great idea to a tangible item that people can use is a lot of hard work. The dedication of various professionals may be required to make your dream come true.
Other Warning Signs
Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken steps to warn inventors against blindly trusting companies that say they exist to help inventors get their new products to market. One of the primary warning signs of a scam, according to the USPTO, is the fact that the company advertises their services on the Internet, television or radio. These ads often say that anyone who responds will get a free inventor’s kit or a complimentary review of their invention. Most of these ads are only designed to lure you in.
Another telltale sign of a scam is a company representative telling you that a market evaluation must be completed, and this necessary step may cost several hundreds of dollars. Frequently, the companies simply take your money and don’t actually perform an evaluation. Nonetheless, you will receive a glowingly positive report that convinces you to invest even more money.
Further, beware of any company that guarantees that you will receive a patent or your money will be returned to you. Even for the most experienced patent attorney, it is impossible to guarantee that a patent will be obtained. Too many factors are involved. A reputable lawyer can predict the odds of patentability, but will never make guarantees as this is plainly unethical.
The Other Issues
So what is the problem? We receive multiple calls a month from disgruntled and upset customers to these types of companies. The issues we predominantly hear about are as follows:
- Lack of communication except when more money is needed.
- Ever increasing fees to do the original quoted package.
- Failed performance on engineering work.
- Failed marketing – refusal to give any status or who has been spoken to about the invention.
- Stuck in making payments for nothing.
- No accountability for promises made.
In general, it boils down to too much money in all the wrong places. Over the years, we have become very familiar with how these companies operate. The statistics are heavily weighted against you. So what can be done?
Typically the best thing to do is to seek a patent attorney’s help if you want a patent or to check a potential invention. They can guide you through the process and meet with you directly. They can help with negotiations, licensing, and trademarks too. For engineering, contact an engineer. Some patent attorneys know engineers willing to help (with a fee naturally) and can give you the guidance you need. With respect to marketing, there is no easy way around it. Your efforts are necessary unless you have large amounts of cash to put into marketing agencies. The process is doable for those that put forth the effort. We have seen it happen with our clients.
Williams IP Law has made it a point to network and compile a team of different companies, incubators, or individuals that can help assist you during the invention process. Contact us for a free consultation.