Robert Susa will jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp invention service, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since overtaking the majority of the everyday operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa has been vexed by what he believes is surely an unfair characterization of the company as being a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We wish to be the good guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each and every inventor. InventHelp is really a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants another person to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual along with other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a selection of methods” to submit a perception or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at trade events.
“We simply do not think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion in the possible acceptability or market potential of the new product idea or invention is any more than simply that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Website states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance from the marketplace. The only real opinions that matter are the ones of companies who may review your invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies in the inventing industry have already been as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business best known to many 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. plus a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & New Product Exposition or INPEX, the most important inventor tradeshow in america.
InventHelp sales reps tell potential customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to sell them $800 information proposals. The proposals derive from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate together with the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and sent to general addresses of targeted companies. Of course, if or when those info packets forget to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to buy upgraded services for 1000s of dollars.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the total value of our services with the first meeting and survey clients to see if they received that information up front.”
As for the accusation that InventHelp New Inventions offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a way to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the first report will be all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is exactly what we believe we must present a product or service to some company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. As soon as you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the marketplace it suits. That marketing details are something we’ve purchased in government and other sources. The details are concerning the market, not the invention.
“If you experienced a new baby product, be it a crib or even a bib, you’d investigate the baby market,” he adds. “There will certainly be a sameness to it.”
And as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are given to a client in the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I know companies that keep seeking money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To be sure, InventHelp has had a colorful history, including run-ins together with the United states Patent and Trademark Office along with the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt along with no finding of wrong doing, the company settled allegations using the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and rate of success from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Under the regards to a consent decree, the organization 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 country wide.
“We have embraced the consent decree and possess managed to get part of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to follow the consent decree like 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 reveal licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp has become the prospective of lawsuits and consumer complaints, many of which have the USPTO’s Internet site. Other Websites warn inventors to keep away through the company.
This 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 information of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts in which he characterized InventHelp like a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, may be the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s existed since 1984 still thrive if 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 received license agreements for their products, and 27 clients have received additional money compared to they paid us of these services.”
That means .5 percent of InventHelp Corporate Headquarters clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the amount percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions published to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of approximately .5 percent, based on interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also operating out of Pittsburgh, reports on its Site that within the last five years:
“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 more money in royalties compared to what they paid, overall, under any and all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent rate of success during the last five-years.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew is not going to list licensing success rates on its site. AbsolutelyNew acquired certain assets of former – and notorious – invention submission company IP&R and relaunched underneath the new name in 2007 (please visit our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, we have been in compliance using the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew v . p . of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not required to publish our stats to the Web site (even though others, 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, according to a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest just last 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 given money 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 at the time of early just last year.
Freund says the company has launched “a handful of new products,” so the quantity of people who’ve made more cash 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 folks were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, simply how much better would you realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers business design? I’m not seeking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize days gone by. But being really fair, there is also to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and later sought to become a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or possibly a spook using the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Following a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That was 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role as well as founder Berger, Susa is on a pursuit to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. In some cases they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought in the guy who’s good at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of any Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Web site offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success inside the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise 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 could be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better since we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the best ever for the company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we would like to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have access to been better. Greater access to information regarding the invention industry, a recession containing compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, and also the resulting necessity for companies to search outside their lairs for brand new ideas helps give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to maximize these confluent trends, spends large numbers 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 handle 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 aspects 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 products from InventHelp clients.
Quinn, the patent attorney and prolific blogger who arguably has more reason to loathe InventHelp than most others, avers that after years being seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems ready to join the polite community.”
He also contends that inventors or would-be inventors must do their homework.
“It’s amazing if you ask me how many of these inventors who claim to happen to be rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting how the Internet “is where each of the good ‘buyer beware’ information and facts are.
“And they see something on television or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, so this has to be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total in their research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to come without doing much, if any, work.”
Even plenty of work does not guarantee market success. Susa looks at the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. Right after a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test from the Midwest. The infomercial company purchased filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not a success for all of us, but we did an extraordinary job getting this product on the market,” he says. “It went through the identical process blockbuster products undergo.”
At the conclusion of the morning, Susa wants the inventing community to believe him when he says InventHelp would like to commercialize products.