Robert Susa tends to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
So when president of invention submission company InventHelp number, Susa’s been doing lots of pondering lately.
Since overtaking many of the daily operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa has been vexed with what he believes is an unfair characterization in the company like a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We want to be the excellent guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for every single inventor. InventHelp is actually a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants someone else to approach potential licensees and set together virtual and also other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a assortment of methods” to submit a perception 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 in the possible acceptability or market potential of the cool 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 with the marketplace. The only opinions that matter are the type of companies who may take a look at invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies within 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 will be 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 & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the greatest inventor tradeshow in the states.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to offer 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 shipped to general addresses of targeted companies. And in case or when those info packets neglect to produce a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to buy upgraded services for lots of money.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the full expense of our services on the first meeting and survey clients to determine if they received that information in the beginning.”
With regards to accusation that InventHelp review offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a method to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the primary report is perhaps all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is really what we think we have to present something to your company.
“Most patent attorneys use a template. After you describe an invention, you’re really referring to the current market it suits. That marketing facts are something we’ve purchased in government along with other sources. The details are regarding the market, not the invention.
“If you had a child product, be it a crib or even a bib, you’d investigate the baby market,” he adds. “There is a sameness to it.”
So when for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are provided to a customer in the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I understand businesses that keep looking for money; that’s not our policy at all.”
To make certain, InventHelp has already established a colorful history, including run-ins with the United states Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt together with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the type, quality and recovery rate of your promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Underneath the relation to a consent decree, the organization set up a $1.2 million account to pay refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, spread over some 50 offices throughout 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 go by the consent decree being a condition of employment.”
The collective conduct of certain invention submission companies compelled the Usa 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 marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, many of which are saved to the USPTO’s Site. Other Websites warn inventors to stay away from the company.
This current year InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn along with his wife Renee for unflattering posts on Quinn’s influential blog IPWatchdog.com. Although details of 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, will be the “scam” label really justified? Can a company that’s existed since 1984 still thrive whether it were “scamming” inventors every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. As a result of our services, 86 clients have received license agreements with regard to their products, and 27 clients have obtained more income than they paid us for these services.”
It means .5 percent of InventHelp invention service 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, based upon 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 during the last 5 years:
“The total number of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or any other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The complete quantity of consumers during the last 5 years who made additional money in royalties compared to they paid, overall, under all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness over the last 5 years.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew will not 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 see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the best of my knowledge, we are in compliance with the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew v . p . of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not necessary to share our stats to your Site (although some others, like Davison, might be asked to do it 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 compared to they paid for 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 last year.
Freund says the company has launched “a lot of new services,” so the amount 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 year, says InventHelp’s “numbers can be better than I assumed these were.”
“If they will double what they’re doing now, how much better can you realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not looking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You ought to recognize earlier times. But being really fair, you also have to identify this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and later on 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. After a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That was two decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role together with founder Berger, Susa continues to be over a mission 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 proficient 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 regarding the odds against financial success inside the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the company investigates. If it’s an initial-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 having better as we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this current year, the most effective ever for your company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we have been. Here’s where we wish 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 that has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, as well as the resulting desire for companies to check outside their lairs for first time ideas has helped give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, looking to capitalize on these confluent trends, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each 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 all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and have told us what areas of interest they want to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses that express interest in licensing certain new releases 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 of being viewed as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems ready to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors should do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me what number of these inventors who state they have been rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting that 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, and this needs to be legit,’ and that’s possibly the sum total in their due diligence.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to arrive without doing much, if any, work.”
Even a great deal of work fails to guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. After having a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test within the Midwest. The infomercial company paid for filming, the works. And also the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not a success for people like us, but we did an extraordinary job getting this system around,” he says. “It underwent the identical process blockbuster products experience.”
At the end of the morning, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him when he says InventHelp wants to commercialize products.