Robert Susa will jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like as he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp number, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since taking over many of the daily operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa has become vexed with what he believes is an unfair characterization in the company as a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We want to be the best guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for every inventor. InventHelp is actually a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the individual that wants another person to approach potential licensees and place together virtual and also other prototypes.
The corporation 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 feel that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion in the possible acceptability or market potential of the cool product idea or invention is any not only that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Web site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance with the marketplace. The sole opinions that matter are the type of companies who may review your invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies within the inventing industry happen to be as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business best known to a lot of as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp will be the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also referred to as Western Invention Submission Corp. as well as a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the largest inventor tradeshow in the states.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to promote them $800 information proposals. The proposals are derived from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate together with the description and image of the invention electronically inserted – and brought to general addresses of targeted companies. Of course, if or when those info packets forget to produce a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to purchase upgraded services for 1000s of dollars.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the total cost of our services at the first meeting and survey clients to see if they received that information up front.”
When it comes to accusation that InventHelp reviews offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a technique 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 think we should present something into a company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. As soon as you describe an invention, you’re really referring to the marketplace it fits into. That marketing facts are something we’ve purchased in government and also other sources. The details are regarding the market, not the invention.
“If you needed an infant product, whether it is a crib or a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness with it.”
And also as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are given to a person with the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I understand companies that keep looking for money; that’s not our policy by any means.”
To be certain, InventHelp has experienced a colorful history, including run-ins with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt together with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations with all the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the nature, quality and recovery rate of the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Under the relation to a consent decree, the corporation put in place a $1.2 million account to pay refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, spread out over some 50 offices across the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and also have caused it to be part 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 show licensing success rates, amongst other things.
InventHelp is the marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which are stored on the USPTO’s Site. Other Websites warn inventors to stay away in the 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 information of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts through which he characterized InventHelp as a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, is the “scam” label really justified? Can a firm that’s been around since 1984 still thrive when it were “scamming” inventors on a regular basis?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. As a result of our services, 86 clients have received license agreements for his or her products, and 27 clients have received more cash compared to they paid us of these services.”
Which means .5 percent of InventHelp office locations clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions published to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of around .5 percent, based upon 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 Internet site that during the last 5yrs:
“The total variety of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or some other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The total variety of consumers within the last five-years who made more money in royalties than 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 beneath 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 using the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew v . p . of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not essential to share our stats to our Internet site (although some others, like Davison, might be required to do this from federal litigation against them). We share our stats in our first substantive communication with inventors.”
As of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, as outlined by 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 bought marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties than they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew by early a year ago.
Freund says the business has launched “a lot of new services,” 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 are superior to I assumed these folks were.”
“If they might double what they’re doing now, how much better could you possibly realistically expect those to do given their take-all-comers business model? I’m not looking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize the past. But to get really fair, there is also to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and then sought to become fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or a spook using the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. After having a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That was 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role together with founder Berger, Susa has become on the 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 Internet site offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says if a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the corporation investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson could be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and obtaining better while we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this year, the most effective 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 been better. Greater access to specifics of the invention industry, a recession containing compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, and also the resulting desire for companies to check outside their lairs for new ideas helps produce a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, looking to take advantage of these confluent trends, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year 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 our data bank and have signed non-disclosure agreements and possess told us what areas of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major firms that express curiosity about 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 being considered 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 for me how many of these inventors who state they have been rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting how the Internet “is where every one of the good ‘buyer beware’ facts are.
“And they see something in the media or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means this needs to be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total with their homework.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to arrive without doing much, if any, work.”
Even plenty of work will not guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. Right after a promising start, a significant DRTV conducted a market test in the Midwest. The infomercial company bought filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not much of a success for people like us, but we did a phenomenal job getting this system out there,” he says. “It went through the identical process blockbuster products proceed through.”
At the conclusion of the morning, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him when he says InventHelp would like to commercialize products.