Robert Susa will jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp number, Susa’s been doing lots of pondering lately.
Since taking over most of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa has been vexed with what he believes is undoubtedly an unfair characterization of your company as being a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We wish to be the great 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 person who wants another person to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual along with other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a variety of methods” to submit an idea or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at industry events.
“We just do not assume that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of the possible acceptability or market potential of any cool 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 with the marketplace. The only real opinions that matter are the type of companies who may review your invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies from the inventing industry have been as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business commonly known to a lot of as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp is the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also called Western Invention Submission Corp. and a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & New Product Exposition or INPEX, the largest inventor tradeshow in the usa.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to market them $800 information proposals. The proposals derive from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate with all the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and brought to general addresses of targeted companies. And in case or when those info packets neglect to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to get upgraded services for thousands.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the complete cost of our services in the first meeting and survey clients to see if they received that information in advance.”
With regards to accusation that InventHelp office locations offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a technique to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the original report is all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is the thing that we think we should present a product to a company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. When you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the marketplace it suits. That marketing facts are something we’ve purchased in government as well as other sources. The information is concerning the market, not the invention.
“If you had a baby product, whether it be a crib or possibly a bib, you’d research the baby market,” he adds. “There is a sameness with it.”
And also as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are made available to a person with the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I understand firms that keep seeking money; that’s not our policy at all.”
To make certain, InventHelp has had a colorful history, including run-ins with the Usa Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt along with no finding of wrong doing, the company settled allegations with all the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and rate of success in the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Within the terms of a consent decree, the corporation setup 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 across the nation.
“We have embraced the consent decree and also have managed to get a part of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to go by the consent decree as being 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, amongst other things.
InventHelp is the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which have the USPTO’s Website. Other Web sites warn inventors to keep away through the company.
This current year InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn with his fantastic 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 being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, will be the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s been used since 1984 still thrive when 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 obtained additional money than they paid us of these services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp New Invention Ideas clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions sent to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of approximately .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 operating out of Pittsburgh, reports on its Website that in the last five years:
“The total amount of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or any other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The entire quantity of consumers over the last five years who made more money in royalties compared to they paid, in total, under almost any agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness over the past 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 beneath the new name in 2007 (please visit our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the best of my knowledge, we have been 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 share our stats to the Site (even though some other companies, like Davison, might be asked to achieve this from federal litigation against them). We share our stats within our first substantive communication with inventors.”
By February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, based on 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 given money for marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties compared to they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew at the time of early last year.
Freund says the business has launched “a lot of new releases,” so the volume of people who’ve made more money than they’ve paid in fees should “increase significantly.”
Quinn, the patent attorney who fought InventHelp and settled this season, says InventHelp’s “numbers can be better than I was thinking these folks were.”
“If they would double what they’re doing now, exactly how much better can you realistically expect those to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not looking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize the past. But being really fair, you will also have to identify this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and then sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or even a spook together with the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Following a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job like a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. Which had been 20 years ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role along with founder Berger, Susa has become on the pursuit to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. In some instances they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought inside a guy who’s efficient at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of your Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Web site offers multiple cautionary statements concerning the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says if a salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the business investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson may need to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson might be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better when we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this year, the very best ever for your company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where our company is. Here’s where we should be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have access to been better. Greater usage of specifics of 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 brand new ideas has helped produce a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to maximize these confluent trends, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on tv 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 all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and also have told us what aspects of interest they would like to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major companies that express interest in licensing certain new services 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 for being seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems prepared to join the polite community.”
He also contends that inventors or would-be inventors should do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me what number of these inventors who state they happen to be rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting the Internet “is where all of the good ‘buyer beware’ facts are.
“And they see something in the media or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, and this has to be legit,’ and that’s possibly the sum total of the homework.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach without having done any much, if any, work.”
Even a lot of work does not guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. After having a promising start, a major DRTV conducted a market test from the Midwest. The infomercial company bought filming, the works. As well as the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not just a success for people like us, but we did an extraordinary job getting this device out there,” he says. “It went through the same process blockbuster products undergo.”
At the conclusion of the day, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him as he says InventHelp would like to commercialize products.