Take steps that will protect you and your invention
G. Patrick Kelley
Copley News Service
Seen those ads promising riches for folks who have come up with a new product idea?
Beware of invention promotion companies, warn the Federal Trade Commission and an intellectual property network.
First, you should know that patent attorneys are lawyers who specialize in filing patent applications for inventors, and are bound by many laws governing their legal and ethical practices.
But, warns IPFrontline, invention promotion companies are commercial organizations that profess to be able to take your idea and submit it to industry. They hire patent attorneys and mark the price up.
IPFrontline is Patent Cafe's magazine. Patent Cafe is one of the oldest intellectual property information networks, serving corporations, intellectual property professionals, patent law firms, university and government researchers, and engineers, scientists and at-home inventors.
The FTC says unscrupulous promoters take advantage of an inventors' enthusiasm, and not only urge them to patent their ideas or invention, but they also make false and exaggerated claims about the market potential of the invention.
Invention promotion companies charge upwards of $12,000 and inventors often end up with a useless patent, IPFrontline says. A seasoned, respected patent attorney charges about half of that and will give you objective advice.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says less than 3 percent of all patents ever make more money for the inventor than it cost, and the FTC also says few inventions ever make it to the marketplace.
Even though a patent can provide valuable protection for a successful invention, getting a patent doesn't necessarily increase the chances of commercial success.
AVOIDING INVENTION SCAMS
- Deal directly with a patent attorney or don't deal. They are registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
- If references, professional certifications, registrations, or representations don't check out, don't deal. Watch out for the standard scam line, "We don't give out client references because of privacy".
- If there is any rumor of wrongdoing by the firm that you can verify, don't deal.
- If a company wants money up front for undefined or unmonitored services, or if they won't sign a contract that includes specific performance clauses, don't deal.
- Don't accept financing from an invention promotion company.
- Get a full disclosure statement that shows how many inventors the company has worked for, and how many have made more money then it cost the inventor.
- If the company wants significantly more payment than two week's services, regardless of the reasons or justification, don't deal.
- Never pay for services with a credit card number unless you can verify everything you need to know about the company, and only if you initiate the call.
- Don't deal with salespeople who are selling professional services. Deal only with the person doing your work.
- Only use specialists, and don't deal with supermarket "we can do everything" service providers.
Source: Patent Cafe's Ironman Inventing Workbook
If you think that you have been the victim of an invention promotion firm, contact the Federal Trade Commission, Boston Regional Office, 101 Merrimac St., Suite 810, Boston, MA 02114-4719, or call 1-617-424-5960,
Report fraudulent patent attorneys to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Office of Enrollment & Discipline, Box OED, Washington, D.C. 20231, or call 1-703-306-4097, Ext.12
Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.