INVENTION PROMOTERS

The K-cup story

Many years ago, John Sylvan had an idea: provide a hermetically-sealed, compact cartridge containing a filter and enough ground coffee to brew a single serving in a specially designed brewer. After the freshly brewed coffee was delivered, the remaining carcass would simply be discarded without fuss or muss. Sylvan’s brilliant idea came to him in the mid-80s. He did not begin working on the idea in earnest until the 90s. John and the company he formed had the forethought to apply for patents on his innovation.

Keurig, named after the Danish word for excellence, toiled through the 90s funded almost exclusively by investors perfecting the cartridge, which came to be known as the K-cup, and its associated brewer. John and his fellow founders were able to convince the investors that the benefits of the K-cup system far outweighed the simple fact that a cup brewed with it cost five-to-10 times as much as a traditionally brewed cup. Truth be told, the otherwise visionary investors really only saw a play for the corporate/office market where convenience outweighed cost: a niche market in the multibillion dollar coffee industry but one with potential sales at least in the tens of millions annually.

Around 1998, when Keurig finally started selling brewers and K-cups in earnest, it registered trademarks for the brand names. When the system took off, the competition was left scratching their heads. A new product segment had been created, one with terrific margins and one in which purchasers of Keurig coffee makers were forced to buy consumables from Keurig itself. The strong patents coupled with Keurig’s aggressive enforcement stance contrasted with the time, cost and uncertainty in developing a suitable non-infringing alternative, left potential competitors with no other alternative than to figuratively beg Keurig for a license to make their own versions of the K-cup.

Keurig and its successor in interest Green Mountain Roasters, who bought the company out in 2002, were under no compulsion to grant patent licenses, but wisely realized it was better to derive revenue from its competitors than to back them into a corner and force them to try and develop a K-cup alternative. If successful, the competitors would have jeopardized the company’s future. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer: The maxim rings true in business as well.

The Keurig system found a place not only in the office and commercial markets but in homes as well. The K-cup system has proven to be the biggest thing to hit the industry since Mr. Coffee killed percolators in the 70s.

One might figure Sylvan became a wealthy man. Sadly, inventors and innovators often do not make great businessmen. He had trouble getting along with the investors and was forced out for a mere $50,000 shortly before the company’s first production commercial brewer was released. In hindsight, perhaps he should have demanded a percentage. Suffice it to say, the sharks freely roaming the ocean of commerce aren’t as tame as those kept in primetime tanks.

As the product grew, Keurig continued to innovate and protect the improvements to the brewers and the K-cups. Even though the seminal patents were strong, they realized it would expire someday. Hopefully, however, improvements to the K-cup would mean competitors’ post patent cartridges would remain a step behind the K-cup in terms of cost, functionality and quality. To date Keurig has been issued 44 patents in the United States and has more pending all related to their K-cup cartridges and the associated brewers.

Patents weren’t the only intellectual property trick up Keurig’s sleeve: they also had trademarks, and trademarks don’t have expiration dates as long as you keep using them. Currently Keurig has 15 registered United States trademarks and about 35 more pending.

When the company’s initial patents expired in 2012, many articles predicted Keurig’s decline. Keurig’s competitors still face major obstacles. Any systems and cartridges they may develop might not infringe the expired patents but they have to be very careful not to infringe the remaining 40-plus patents. While the remaining patents are much more narrow, they do lay a minefield that competitors must navigate in developing their non-infringing alternatives, greatly increasing the cost of development. Stepping on a mine can mean an expensive lawsuit.

Even if successful in developing a suitable K-cup alternative, competitors don’t have a word or phrase to describe their coffee cartridges. If a competitor strays and improperly insinuates some connection with K-cups or Keurig, the company, which is now the 500-pound gorilla in the coffee industry, releases its pack of lawyers to shut things down.
If a competitor stays clear of the Keurig marks, it faces the monumental and uncertain task of educating the public about a new single serving cartridge without reference to the original – all at great expense and huge risk of failure. Ultimately, most of the industry players have or will decide to go the certain and predicable route of licensing Keurig’s technology and trademarks adding even more money to its $4 billion-a-year revenues.

Would there be a Keurig or even a single-serving coffee cartridge today if they had not pursued intellectual property protection? Its seminal patents helped garner investors in the 1990’s permitting the system’s development. The patents kept competitors at bay during its growth years of the 2000s.

Today, as the industry leader, its trademarks and patent portfolio continue to thwart competitors and allow it to maintain its position as the market leader. Sometimes my start-up clients ask me whether it is worthwhile to pursue patent protection on their idea. All I need to do is look over my shoulder and point to the coffee machine on the credenza and say, “Yes, it is.”

The $64,000 Innovation Question

What do Yahoo, telecommuting and intellectual property legal services have in common?

At first glance, the popular answer may be “Absolutely nothing.” But those three seemingly unrelated topics might actually have a profound effect on your business and the quality of your intellectual property legal representation.

Yahoo made some waves last month by issuing an edict that it was discontinuing its telecommuting program.  While many in the techno press panned the decision as backward thinking, Yahoo’s rationale is actually quite interesting.  Yahoo’s reasoning was not based on efficiency, productivity or employee morale, it was based on innovation.

Yes, innovation—that magical moment sparked by conversations and personal interaction at the vending machine, water cooler and even in the restroom.  While some studies have shown an increase in worker productivity through the use of telecommuting, studies by Google and Isaac Kohane of Harvard Medical School have shown that people who work in close proximity create a positive impact on a company’s business, including innovation.  Therefore, telecommuting may work for those who perform repetitive routine tasks as their productivity may increase, but it may not be so effective for employees whose jobs rely on collaboration with other individuals.

For example, telecommuting may work well for telemarketers, call centers, help desks, etc., but probably will not work well for people in product development or other strategic departments.  While individual employees may feel that their performance or efficiency increases through telecommuting, the performance of the company as a whole may actually decrease.

Effect of Face-to-Face Interaction on Innovation

So what does this have to do with the delivery of legal services, and in particular legal services pertaining to intellectual property?  Intellectual property is different from a lot of other areas of the law in that it is based mainly on federal statutes.  Most other areas of law are primarily based on state law.  State unauthorized practice of law rules generally limit the possible pool of attorneys that can represent a particular client.  If a lawsuit is filed in Colorado state court, for instance, it can only be tried by attorneys that are admitted to the Colorado Bar.

Because most intellectual property cases are based on federal laws, they are considered a nationwide practice.  Thus, an attorney in New York can represent a client in San Francisco for IP matters.  This fact has created many “firms” that advertise on a nationwide basis.  Oftentimes these firms offer cut rates and rely on a high-volume business model that offers only limited contact over email or the phone.

While we are big believers in technology and frequently employ it with our clients that live out of state or in remote parts of Colorado, nothing beats good old face-to-face interaction.  The spontaneous conversations that happen often lead to insights that help us represent our clients better.  Sometimes it’s the ability to manipulate and play with a prototype with the inventor present; other times it’s sitting down and listening to a few tracks of a musician’s CD, or even visiting a client’s business to understand their processes and how they do what they do.  Unfortunately, many times these intangibles cannot be communicated in a phone call, email or even over Skype.

Recently, I was watching a local program on PBS that featured representatives from local wine and spirits companies.  They were commenting on how consumers in Colorado really get into the “buy locally” concept.  A representative from Shanahan’s Whiskey recounts seeing consumers pulling out bottle after bottle in a liquor store looking for one that was bottled by a specific individual or bottled while listening to specific bands.

If people take such care in buying whiskey, why not take the same care in choosing a law firm to protect some of your companies most valuable assets?  The plain and simple truth is that while technology is great, it simply cannot replace actual human interactions.  Virtual law firms and out of state high volume legal service “mills” can offer a lower price point; however, they cannot offer the quality of representation that one gets when you meet face to face, and the client learns about the firm, and even more importantly, the firm learns the ins and outs of its client’s intellectual property.

While technology is a wonderful tool, there are some things it cannot replace:  The chance meeting at the water cooler that sparks a revolutionary idea, the impression left by someone’s office space, or the sweet sound of a note being played through an all tube guitar amp.  Some things just still need to be done the low tech way.

By | March 26th, 2013|COPYRIGHTS, GENERAL INTEREST, INVENTION PROMOTERS|0 Comments

Can I Patent That?

A question I frequently get from prospective clients is, “Is my invention patentable?” Variations on this inquiry include the following:

• “Can I patent an improvement to a device that is already available?”
• “Is it correct that in order for something to be patentable, it has to be at least 10 percent different than the known device from which it is derived?”
• “Can I get a patent on something that is already on the market, but I am using it in a new manner?”

The scope and breadth of what is patentable is very broad and wide. Chances are if your invention is useful, new (also referred to as “novel”) and not obvious, it is patentable.

Patents protect the rights of inventors to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention throughout the United States or importing it for a specific period of time. Most people know this. But ask the same people what an invention is, and more often than not, the response will be much more narrow than is actually the case.

The prototypical invention is a completely new widget, tool or device that does something or accomplishes a task better (faster, easier or cheaper) than whatever was done before. In popular imagination, the likes of Thomas Edison remain the prototypical inventor: a person sitting in his lab, garage or workshop dreaming up ways to solve the world’s problems. Factually, however, the prototypical invention and the prototypical inventor are the exception rather than the rule.

Given the foregoing, perhaps the next question is: “What exactly is considered an ‘invention’?” You would think that this would be an easy inquiry to answer, but that would be wrong.

At its broadest according to Merriam-Webster, an invention is “something invented,” which requires us to look up the meaning of the verb “invent,” which is “to produce (as something useful) for the first time through the use of ingenious thinking and experiment.”

Putting this together, an invention is something new and useful invented by a person, and it can be anything from a new drug to a new medical device to a gardening tool to a manufacturing process to a musical composition. In other words, an invention may improve upon or create a new process, machine, device, product, result, function, discovery, art object—or even a genetically modified plant. Often times companies overlook patent protection because they do not consider the item or process an “invention.”

For example, even if the ultimate product is not patentable, the specific process, tool or machine that you use to make it is. If that process, tool or machine yields a product or result that is faster, cheaper or better than patenting the process, tool or machine may have enormous value to your company as you can prevent others from doing the same thing. This can give companies a competitive advantage in the marketplace, especially in mature industries.

If you think your invention is patentable, by all means protect it. Consult an attorney. The next step is to obtain a U.S. patent for your invention, which is the granting of a property right to the inventor(s), issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Contrary to popular belief, new patents are issued all the time to ordinary people, just like you, with not-so-ordinary ideas.

By | March 6th, 2013|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments

Clash of the tax and retail titans

Since I counsel a lot of online businesses, including online retailers, I am often asked about the sales tax implications of online sales. Generally speaking, the answer is pretty easy: If you are a Colorado business and sell goods to individuals residing in Colorado, then you have to collect Colorado sales tax and the appropriate county and city taxes from the consumers and remit the sales tax to the appropriate taxing authority.

Technically speaking, Colorado consumers are supposed to report and calculate the value of goods purchased from out-of-state business and pay the state government the appropriate tax. Of course, no one does this, and the state has no way of knowing how much each taxpayer purchases and how much tax is owed.

In an attempt to capture all of these unpaid taxes, the state passed what became known as the Amazon Tax in 2010. The Amazon tax required internet retailers to collect the sales tax from Colorado consumers, or in the alternative, notify each Colorado customer and the State in writing that they owed sales tax on their purchases and provide the customer with a list of all goods purchased by the customer and the amounts spent.

The Amazon Tax poses many issues for large and small online businesses alike. In the case of a large retailer such as Amazon, the task of complying with Colorado’s law is mammoth, due to the enormous volume of transactions the company processes. It would force Amazon to specifically set up unique systems just for Colorado customers.

If every state enacted differing laws concerning the collection of sales tax with differing requirements, it could be a nightmare for large nationwide retailers. Likewise, for smaller online retailers, the Amazon Tax potentially poses a large cost burden in acquiring the systems that would allow the collection of the tax, or complying with the notice requirements.

Enter the U.S. Constitution and the commerce clause. The commerce clause is getting a lot of press these days because of “Obamacare,” but it is also intimately connected to online commerce. In this instance, we are concerned with what is called the reverse commerce clause – basically the theory that state laws cannot place an undue burden on interstate commerce (commerce between states).

In March, Federal District Court Judge Robert Blackburn tossed out the law, stating, “I conclude that the veil provided by the words of the act and the regulation is too thin to support the conclusion that the act and the regulations regulate in-state and out-of-state retailers even-handedly,” and that the law and regulations “impose an undue burden on interstate commerce.”

This ruling confirms what scholars and commentators have said for a long time – any sort of taxation on internet sales has to come from a national level. Given the plethora of issues already being debated at the national level, I think online retailers are safe from any additional government involvement – at least for a little while.

Is InventSAI breaking the law?

Originally Posted 8/8/07

The post is wholly one attorney’s opinion and in no way states the opinion of the firm, or attempts to establish any facts.

Today I learned that an Invention Promotion Company, InventSAI, may not be fulfilling their required duty, by law, of disclosing the profitability of companies using their services. In fact, there appears to be a question as to whether The InventSAI Network, LLC is violating not only the the letter but also the spirit of the Amercian Inventors Protection Act of 1999 (the “Act”).

Under the Act, whose full text can be seen at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/s1948gb1.pdf, an invention promoter or an invention promotion firm must disclose specific information regarding their past business practices. These mandatory disclosures are required by law. Specifically, invention promotion companies are required to provide “the total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received a net financial profit as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter.”

InventSAI states “An exact number of inventors commercializing their inventions can only be estimated because InventSAI clients are not obligated to disclose financial data. Nevertheless, based upon client feedback, of the 815 total InventSAI clients contracting for commercialization services, at least 152 have reported commercial success with hundreds of cases still active.” Thier online post can be seen here: http://www.inventsai.com/AIPA.html

The law requires InventSAI to disclose “the total number of customers known… to have received a net financial profit.”. It appears InventSAI is playing the ostrich game – what I don’t “know”, I don’t have to disclose. However, I read the law differently. The law requires InventSAI to disclose “known” profitably customers. InventSAI by its own admission does not know of any net profitable customer since its customers “financial data” is not disclosed. Therefore, under my estimation, InventSAI is required, by law, to state it knows of zero profitable companies that have used its services.

Moreoever, stating that “at least 152 [customers] have reported commecial success” is misleading and potentially dishonest. If InventSAI does not know their customer’s financial data, how can they know if they’re commercially successful? I’d like to know what InventSAI’s definition of commercial success is. Moreover, by simply providing “commercial succes” data as opposed to “net financial profit” data, InventSAI seems to simply be providing data they want to provide, instead of the data they are REQUIRED to provide, by law.

WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? I welcome a phone call from InventSAI to explain thier position and why they feel they can get around this law in this manner.

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments

DAVISON ROCKS!!!

Originally Posted 8/6/07 written by Kurt Leyendecker

OK, for thos of you who don’t know me by now should realize that I’m sarcastic. Hence, the title of this blog article.

Addtionally, it would be remiss of me if I failed to say sorry. I’m sorry that we’ve been absent from posting any recent blogs – I suppose the summer blog malaise started to seep as the temperature outisde started to push 100 degrees on a daily basis. So, although this new blog article is waaaaayyyyy overdue, in the hopes of kicking off a new blogging season with the type of article we wish we did not have to post, but feel it is our job to so do…

Once again, an invention promotion company has reared its ugly head to show us just how inept they actually are. As our blog articles on InventHelp and Advent Product Development disclosed their inability to create profit for their clients, Davison’s own website (http://www.davison54.com/disclosures/disclosure.php) states the same thing. Here’s what Davison tells us about themselves:

(1) 41,128 consumers signed licensing agreements and purchased research services from Davison in the last 5 years.
(2) 11,598 consumers purchsed product design services from Davison.
(3) Of these, “THE TOTAL OF CONSUMERS IN THE LAST 5 YEARS WHO MADE MORE MONEY IN ROYALTIES THAN THEY PAID, IN TOTAL, UNDER ANY AND ALL AGREEMENTS TO DAVISON, IS EIGHT(8).”

So, you have about a .0002% chance at making money with Davison if you purchase their research services. That means, that about 2 out of every 10,000 people who purchase these services with Davison make more money on their product than they spend with Davison. And if you spend the big bucks with Davison and purchase product design services your chances at makign money with them go up to a whopping .0007%. Or, about 7 out of every 10,000 people who contract Davison to help design their product make more money off of their product than they spent with Davison. So, if you’re thinking of using Davison, my suggestion would be for you to play the lottery instead. They appear to have better odds: http://www.coloradolottery.com/games/scratch/featured.cfm?FeaturedGameID=101 (please note sarcasm statement at beginning of post).

Oh, and one more thing. Davison also states “THE PERCENTAGE OF DAVISON’S INCOME THAT CAME FROM ROYALTIES PAID ON LICENSES OF CONSUMERS’ PRODUCTS IS .001%.” This means that for every $1 Davison makes from licensing a product submitted to it, Davison is making $1000 off of the people submitting the products.

Numbers don’t lie – and these are Davison’s own numbers! As we suggst to our clients, do not use these companies – you are more likely to succeed if you are willing to put in the effort yourself and use reputable marketing and manufacturing organizations, while protecting yourself legally along the way. Contact Leyendecker and Lemire (www.coloradoiplaw.com) and we can steer you in the right direction.

Numbers are current as of June 30, 2007.

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments

Kudos to Advent Product Development!!!

Originally Posted 5/14/07

Between Oct 1, 1998 and Dec 6, 2004, they had a perfectly imperfect record! That is, of 2452 people that signed Phase II representation Agreements, NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE made more money than they gave to Advent Product Development! The beauty is this is the number the company itself presented in a recent lawsuit as reported by our friend, Stephen Nipper, over at THE INVENT BLOG.

And those of us in Colorado are especially lucky because we have our very own Advent Product Development office here in the state. Let’s all give Advent Product Development a call and let them know how we feel about their good work.

So if you have an invention and a lot of money burning a hole in your pants, it seems you can’t go wrong with the boys at Advent.

(I have been told sarcasm does not transfer well in writing. So in case you were confused, I am not advocating anyone use Advent Product Development and in fact my opinion is you should avoid them and other similar invention promotion companies like the plague.)

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS|0 Comments

Updated InventHelp Success Numbers

Originally Posted 3/17/07

This is direct from the InventHelp Website:

“From 2004-2006, we signed Submission Agreements with 6,269 clients. As a result of our services, 108 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 15 clients have received more money than they paid us for these services.”

See http://www.inventhelp.com/inventhelp-client-invention-stories.asp.

Not much different from the numbers reported for 2003-2005 in my previous blog post that you can read HERE (second article).

To restate Invent Helps numbers:

Only 1 in every about every 418 clients actually made more money from their inventions than they spent with InventHelp: a whopping 0.24%.

Draw you own conclusions…

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments

Inventorshelpline.com in Temporary Receivership

Originally Posted 2/24/07

The Patent and Trademark Insitute of America, the company behind InventorsHelpline.com, is in Temproary Receivership as reported at the top of their website and ordered by the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee in the matter of FTC v. International Product Design, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:97-cv-01114-AVB . It appears the FTC is attempting to bring the long arm of the law down on another Invention Promotion Company.

By the way, the InventorsHelpline.com site is interesting. They even have some infomerical type videos with Doug Lewellyn of People’s Court fame interviewing one of the company’s CEO. The company’s message is inciting and I can see why they have had success in getting inventors to sign up with them. There is only one small problem in my opinion: Companies like this just don’t deliver in the end! They offer very little value for the money spent.

Maybe this company will close up shop after the litigation is finished. BUT don’t bet on it! Remember the line from the Eagles Song: “the lure of easy money has a very strong appeal”.

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments

Invention Promotion Companies: Response to an Anonymous Comment to my December Post

Originally Posted 2/23/07

An anonymous reader wrote the following in response to my blog article about the poor success of Davison and InventHelp, two of the more well known Invention Promotion Companies. I felt his response desired a response from me. Read my article, his comment and my response thereto and draw your own conclusions. And, of course, feel free to leave comments of your own either in support of me or the anonymous reader. Here is his unedited comment:

I am not an employee of Inventhelp or Davision, I am a patent searcher. Your bashing marketing companies because they are not making inventors rich. Do you make your clients rich? How many applications have you completed for clients and those clients ( I am talking about a regular person not a company) turned around and magically got rich? When you perform patent services for a client that is all they get, if there lucky. Maybe the get a patent. A marketing company at least tries to sell there idea’s to companies so they can make money. If I had a choice to obtain a patent I would not go to an IP firm and get a patent. What does that give me, a patent. Now what? I am an inventor. I don’t have contacts to large corporations to sell my IP. It is NOT marketing companies fault if corporations do not buy/license a clients patent. But you are holding them responsible for it. If you put something on Ebay to sell and it does not sell is it Ebay’s fault? No, no one wanted what you had to sell. So your feelings toward marking companies can NOT be because the percentages of clients that make money is low. It can’t be because some marketing companies are crooks because there are a lot more crooked patent attorneys out there than marketing companies. So what is your exact beef with marketing companies?

My response to each point:

I am not an employee of Inventhelp or Davision, I am a patent searcher.

OK, I guess I have to take your word on that since you did not reveal who you are. Why not put your name down. Plenty of inventors read this blog and may be looking for a good patent searcher. Heck, my firm does orders a lot of patent searches and we can always use another great patent searcher. If you are great, let us know. Why not plug your business?

My suspicion is that while you may not work for Davison or InventHelp, you may work or derive your work from one of these companies or another invention promotion company. In the interest of full disclosure, I would appreciate it, if you would come clean.

Your bashing marketing companies because they are not making inventors rich.

Actually, that is not true. Not once in my article did I use the word rich. Truth be told as indicated in my article: the success rates I indicated were the percentage of customers of the two companies that actually made more than they spent with the company. The numbers came directly from the companies’ own web sites. I was merely reiterated what they themselves had reported.

If you read the rest of my blog articles and review my website including my FAQ section, you will realize I am very forthright and honest about how few inventors actually make money from their invention. I sincerely believe, however, the success rates of companies like Davison and InventHelp are WELL BELOW industry norms, and their own statistics appear to bare this out.

Do you make your clients rich? How many applications have you completed for clients and those clients ( I am talking about a regular person not a company) turned around and magically got rich?

The honest answer is none: it is almost impossible for anyone to “magically” get rich in the inventing game. It takes lots of hard work and perseverance. Again, I talk about this in the aforementioned FAQ section. Now are there clients of mine that commercializing their inventions and have a real chance at being successful? You better believe it! One of the big problems with the invention promotion companies in my opinion are that they sell the dream with almost no dose of reality: they would have you believe that if you use them, you will become or may become magically rich. This just ain’t true and their own numbers prove it!

A marketing company at least tries to sell there idea’s to companies so they can make money.

I just can’t agree with that statement: I honestly don’t believe invention promotion companies actually try to make their clients money. OK, that is a bit harse. Perhaps, they do try a little: a very very little.

It is my very strong opinion that inventors can do so much better trying to sell their inventions to companies than any invention promotion firm can. I would venture a guess that the success rate of individuals promoting their own inventions is on the order of 1-5%. I have not done any studies but these are numbers I have seen mentioned. If my belief is true this would mean that an inventors chances of success on their own is about an order of magnitude greater than the chances an invention promotion company will be successful.

By the way, there are a select few upstanding marketing companies out there. They are, however, hard to find. They don’t have huge marketing budgets so you will not find them advertising on television or in heavy rotation on the radio. I suspect they believe in spending the money clients give them on actual services instead of expensive marketing to draw in new clients.

It is NOT marketing companies fault if corporations do not buy/license a clients patent. But you are holding them responsible for it.

OK, let us assume it is not the invention promotion company’s fault. If we take you premise that corporations aren’t buying the inventions promoted by the invention promotion company, why would any well informed inventor ever use one of these companies? And why would any invention promotion company, and more particularly its owners, knowing that they are not, except for a very few select and rare instances, going to be able to sell an inventors idea to a company continue in the business. Where is the pride. If I knew I was just taking people’s money with the realization that almost all would never receive any value back from the expenditure, I don’t think I could sleep at night.

I respect my clients and try to lay everything on the table: their chances of success; whether a patent makes sense for them in terms their chances at getting quality protection; and the potential costs of the process. I never promise that a client will be able to license an invention to a company. In fact, I let them know how difficult and rare that is. I don’t get the feeling the invention promotion companies as a whole are doing this. If you know of exceptions, please point them out. I will investigate and if this turns out to be true, I will be the first to announce it in this blog.

It can’t be because some marketing companies are crooks because there are a lot more crooked patent attorneys out there than marketing companies.

I guess I don’t understand exactly what you are trying to say in the above sentence but I will take a stab at it anyway. I HAVE NEVER ACCUSED ANY PARTICULAR INVENTION PROMOTION COMPANY OF BEING CROOKED. In fact, I believe that most try to operate within the law if not barely. I do have my suspicions about a few but I have never accused them publicly of breaking the law (as a point of clarification, I have no knowledge or evidence that Davison or InventHelp, the subject companies of the original article, are currently breaking the law).

The fact is, however, many invention promotion companies have in the past found themselves in trouble with the law and several executives and owners have done time. In the past, several invention promotion companies have been sued by the Federal Trade Commission including the Invention Submission Corporation (ISC), which is now goes by the service mark InventHelp. In fact, ISC paid the FTC 1.2 million dollars pursuant to a 1994 settlement. See the FTC RELEASE for more information. Now, it has been a while since the settlement, so perhaps ISC has changed it ways. Their website and marketing materials seem to indicate a change for the better. Nevertheless, I do not feel that their services are a good value for consumers.

EDIT – after writing the foregoing, I came upon this judgement against Davison from early 2006. This is a good read that reinforces my points. And keep in mind these are conclusions of law in fact made in a Federal Court after Davision was sued by the FTC. Anonymous may argue Davison has changed since then BUT do companies like this really change? I personally doubt it. And why spend hard earned money with a company with a checkered past when there are reputable marketing companies out there (albeit harder to find because of their much smaller marketing budgets). Anonymous: I would love to hear your defense of Davison in light of this Federal Court Judgement. And answer me this: in light of this ruling, would you actually recommend someone use Davison?

On the subject of crooked patent attorneys, I am sure their are some, although I personally don’t know of any. If you have read my blog, you will see that I provide advice to inventors on how to pick a patent attorney. You would also know that I am not a supporter of firms that could be classified as “patent mills”. There definitely are a number out there that do not operate in a manner that I would find acceptable in my firm. On the other hand, there are a large number of hard working and conscientious patent attorneys out there as well.

So what is your exact beef with marketing companies?

I don’t have a “beef with marketing companies” in general, just Invention Promotion Companies. And my “beef” is quite simple: I feel they don’t provide value for the price they charge.

Whether you ever consider using my firm or not, please think long and hard before spending your hard earned money with an invention promotion company. At least before using one of these companies, do your homework. Read the opinions of others. Check out the company’s past particularly to find out if they have ever been south of the law. Check out the inventor resources at the USPTO. Read the InventorEd website. And by all means peruse our blog archives. In the end, some of you may hire an invention promotion company, but at least you will be reasonably informed when you do.

Mr. Anonymous, I hope you get a chance to read my response to your comment and I will look forward to your reply. I welcome an open discourse on this topic.

By | October 14th, 2008|INVENTION PROMOTERS, PATENTS|0 Comments