Robert Susa tends to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like as he ponders.
So when president of invention submission company InventHelp office location, Susa’s been doing lots of pondering lately.
Since overtaking the majority of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa is vexed by what he believes is definitely an unfair characterization in the company like a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We desire to be the excellent guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each inventor. InventHelp can be a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the individual that wants someone else to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual and other prototypes.
The corporation says it uses “a assortment of methods” to submit an understanding or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at trade events.
“We just do not assume that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of your possible acceptability or market potential of a new product idea or invention is any not only that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Website states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance by the marketplace. The only opinions that matter are the types of companies who may take a look at invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies from the inventing industry are already as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business commonly known to many as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp is the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also referred to as Western Invention Submission Corp. and a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the largest inventor tradeshow in the usa.
InventHelp sales reps tell potential customers their inventions will be the greatest things since sliced bread to promote them $800 information proposals. The proposals are based on a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate together with the description and image of the invention electronically inserted – and delivered to general addresses of targeted companies. And in case or when those info packets fail to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to purchase upgraded services for thousands.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the full value of our services on the first meeting and survey clients to find out if they received that information in the beginning.”
With regards to accusation that InventHelp client inventions offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a means to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the primary report is actually all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is really what we believe we need to present a product into a company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. When you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the marketplace it fits into. That marketing information is something we’ve purchased from government along with other sources. The information is concerning the market, not the invention.
“If you had a child product, whether it be a crib or a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There will be a sameness to it.”
And as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are made available to a person on the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I am aware businesses that keep seeking money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To make certain, InventHelp has already established a colorful history, including run-ins together with the Usa Patent and Trademark Office along with the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations using the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the nature, quality and effectiveness from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Underneath the terms of a consent decree, the company put in place a $1.2 million account to pay for refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, spread out over some 50 offices throughout the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and have caused it to be a part of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to adhere to the consent decree as being a condition of employment.”
The collective conduct of certain invention submission companies compelled the United states government to adopt the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, which requires those invention submission firms to show licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp is the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints, a few of which are saved to the USPTO’s Website. Other Internet sites warn inventors to keep away from your company.
This coming year InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn and his awesome wife Renee for unflattering posts on Quinn’s influential blog IPWatchdog.com. Although details of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts through which he characterized InventHelp as being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, is definitely the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s been used since 1984 still thrive whether it were “scamming” inventors every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. On account of our services, 86 clients have obtained license agreements with regard to their products, and 27 clients have received more money than they paid us for such services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp number clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s twice the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions submitted to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates around .5 percent, depending on interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also located in Pittsburgh, reports on its Site that over the last five years:
“The total variety of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or any other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The complete number of consumers during the last 5 years who made more cash in royalties compared to they paid, in total, under almost any agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
If you do the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness throughout the last 5yrs.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew does not list licensing success rates on its site. AbsolutelyNew acquired certain assets of former – and notorious – invention submission company IP&R and relaunched within the new name in 2007 (please visit our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the best of my knowledge, we are in compliance with all the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew vice president of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not necessary to post our stats to our Internet site (even though other manufacturers, like Davison, might be asked to do it from federal litigation against them). We share our stats in your first substantive communication with inventors.”
As of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, based on a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest this past year. Of 1,638 client contracts completed, 80 clients, or 4.88 percent, obtained licensing agreements.
Five licensed clients “have already earned more in royalties compared to they purchased marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties than they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew as of early just last year.
Freund says the corporation has launched “a bunch of new services,” so the number of people who’ve made additional money than they’ve paid in fees should “increase significantly.”
Quinn, the patent attorney who fought InventHelp and settled this coming year, says InventHelp’s “numbers are better than I thought these people were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, how much better can you realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers business design? I’m not trying to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You have to recognize earlier times. But to get really fair, you also have to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and later sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or even a spook using the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. After a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That had been 20 years ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role together with founder Berger, Susa has become on a mission to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. Sometimes they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought in a guy who’s good at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of a Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Web site offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the business investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson might be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and getting better when we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this year, the best ever for that company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we have been. Here’s where we want to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have been better. Greater access to information regarding the invention industry, a recession which has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, as well as the resulting necessity for companies to appear outside their lairs for first time ideas has helped lead to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, looking to exploit these confluent trends, spends tens of thousands of dollars annually on television and radio commercials. The company’s ads together with the caveman logo are ubiquitous on ESPN and CNN.
Susa dismisses criticism that InventHelp lacks contacts and relationships with company buyers.
“It’s virtually impossible for independent inventors to cope with large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies in your data bank and all sorts of have signed non-disclosure agreements and get told us what areas of interest they would like to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major companies that express fascination with licensing certain new items from InventHelp clients.
Quinn, the patent attorney and prolific blogger who arguably has more reason to loathe InventHelp than most others, avers that after many years to be considered as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems prepared to join the polite community.”
He also contends that inventors or would-be inventors ought to do their homework.
“It’s amazing in my opinion what percentage of these inventors who claim to are already rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting how the Internet “is where all the good ‘buyer beware’ details are.
“And they see something on television or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means this needs to be legit,’ and that’s most likely the sum total of the research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to arrive without having done much, if any, work.”
Even lots of work will not guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new sort of toothbrush. Following a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test in the Midwest. The infomercial company purchased filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not really a success for all of us, but we did an extraordinary job getting this device on the market,” he says. “It went through the identical process blockbuster products undergo.”
After the day, Susa wants the inventing community to believe him as he says InventHelp wants to commercialize products.