Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And as president of invention submission company InventHelp, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since taking over most of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa has been vexed with what he believes is definitely an unfair characterization of the company like a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We wish to be the best guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each and every inventor. InventHelp is a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants somebody else to approach potential licensees and place together virtual and other prototypes.
The business says it uses “a selection of methods” to submit a concept or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at trade shows.
“We just do not think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion from the possible acceptability or market potential of the cool product idea or invention is any more than simply that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance by the marketplace. The only real opinions that matter are the types of companies who may review your invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies from the inventing industry happen to be as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business commonly known to numerous as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp may be the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), often known as Western Invention Submission Corp. as well as a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & New Product Exposition or INPEX, the biggest inventor tradeshow in the United States.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective customers their inventions will be the greatest things since sliced bread to market them $800 information proposals. The proposals are derived from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate together with the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and delivered to general addresses of targeted companies. And when or when those info packets forget to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to get upgraded services for lots of money.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the complete value of our services on the first meeting and survey clients to find out if they received that information at the start.”
As for the accusation that InventHelp George Foreman offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a means to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the original report is perhaps all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is really what we believe we need to present a product or service to your company.
“Most patent attorneys work with a template. Once you describe an invention, you’re really discussing the marketplace it fits into. That marketing details are something we’ve purchased from government along with other sources. The information is about the market, not the invention.
“If you needed a child product, be it a crib or a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness into it.”
So that as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are provided to a client with the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I know companies that keep looking for money; that’s not our policy at all.”
To make sure, InventHelp has received a colorful history, including run-ins with all the United states Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt and with no finding of wrong doing, the organization settled allegations with all the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the nature, quality and recovery rate in the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Beneath the regards to a consent decree, the business put in place a $1.2 million account to pay refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, distributed over some 50 offices throughout the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and also have managed to get element of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to adhere to the consent decree as a condition of employment.”
The collective conduct of certain invention submission companies compelled the U.S. government to adopt the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, which requires those invention submission firms to disclose licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp is the marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which are stored on the USPTO’s Site. Other Sites warn inventors to step away through the company.
This season InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn and his wife Renee for unflattering posts on Quinn’s influential blog IPWatchdog.com. Although information on the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts in which he characterized InventHelp as being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, may be the “scam” label really justified? Can a firm that’s existed since 1984 still thrive when it were “scamming” inventors each and every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. On account of our services, 86 clients have received license agreements with regard to their products, and 27 clients have received additional money than they paid us for these services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp New Inventions clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s twice the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions sent to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of approximately .5 percent, according to interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also situated in Pittsburgh, reports on its Website that within the last 5yrs:
“The total number of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The complete amount of consumers during the last five years who made additional money in royalties compared to what they paid, in total, under all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent success rate over 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 see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, we are in compliance together with 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 your Site (even though other companies, like Davison, might be asked to do it from federal litigation against them). We share our stats inside our first substantive communication with inventors.”
At the time of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, according to a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest a year ago. Of 1,638 client contracts completed, 80 clients, or 4.88 percent, obtained licensing agreements.
Five licensed clients “have already earned more in royalties than they paid for marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties compared to what they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew as of early just last year.
Freund says the corporation has launched “a number of new releases,” so the amount of people who’ve made more income 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 figured these people were.”
“If they would double what they’re doing now, exactly how much better could you possibly realistically expect these people to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not attempting to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You have to recognize earlier times. But to be really fair, you will also have to distinguish this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and later on sought to become a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or a spook together with the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. After a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That had been twenty years ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role together with founder Berger, Susa is on the pursuit 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 within a guy who’s great at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of the Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Site offers multiple cautionary statements in regards to the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says if your salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the corporation investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson might have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson may be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and receiving better as we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the most effective ever to the company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we wish to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have been better. Greater access to details about the invention industry, a recession which includes compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, as well as the resulting requirement for companies to look outside their lairs for first time ideas has helped lead to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to capitalize on these confluent trends, spends thousands and thousands of dollars each year on television and radio commercials. The company’s ads 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 handle large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies within our data bank and have signed non-disclosure agreements and have told us what regions of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses that express desire for 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 being seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems able to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors ought to do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me how many of these inventors who claim to happen to be rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting the Internet “is where each of the good ‘buyer beware’ information and facts are.
“And they see something on TV or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means that this must be legit,’ and that’s most likely the sum total of their research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to come without having done much, if any, work.”
Even plenty of work does not guarantee market success. Susa talks about the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. Following a promising start, a significant DRTV conducted a market test from the Midwest. The infomercial company given money for filming, the works. Along with the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not really a success for people, but we did an extraordinary job getting the product available,” he says. “It underwent a similar process blockbuster products undergo.”
Following the day, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him when he says InventHelp desires to commercialize products.