Inventor Protect Yourself
A Rant By Jeffrey Dobkin
Protect Yourself… from Invention Marketing Companies.
There are a lot of bad guys out there – and many find the inventor market – because it’s so fragmented: it’s easy pickings to defraud inventors. The inventor community was so infiltrated by rip-off artists and fraud, a law was passed more than a dozen years ago to try to prevent bottom feeders and scumbags from praying on innocent and enthusiastic – and sometimes naive – inventors.
By law (The Inventor Protection Act of 1999), any invention marketing company must give you the percentage of people that have made more money from selling or licensing their invention than the inventor has spent with the firm. If the people at the invention marketing company you are dealing with are reluctant to give you this figure easily and UP FRONT, they are the bad guys. What does this tell you? Run away. An example of this can be found here.
They all start out the same way: “Oh, don’t tell me your idea – let me send you our Non-Disclosure Agreement” they asay on the phone. They then send you an Non-Disclosure Agreement – so you feel comfortable that they won’t steal your idea. Then they invite you to meet in person at their office, because: well, they can’t get any money out of you on the phone, can they? In reality, they don’t steal ideas – why would they want your idea, it needs work to make a profit from it. They do direct: they steal your money.
At the meeting everyone there tells you how great your product is (yes, everyone in the company: your contact (the salesperson they call the “product developer,” his manager, and the vice president! And, low and behold, the president thinks your product is amazing, too!) In fact, they all think your invention is the most amazing thing since the toaster! And now they tell you – how they’d like to help you market it because they think you’re going to make so, so much money….
Now that your head is spinning and glowing with their rave reviews of your invention, everything from that point on they charge you for out the wazoo!. But hey, “so what!” you’re thinking – because you’re going to make so much money in just a few months because your invention is so great! So here’s their pitch of what you need, or at least what you’re going to get a high pressure sale pitch for:
1. The Bogus market study:
· A big leather bound book worthlessly filled with stock boilerplate information with a sprinkling of marketing gibberish.
“Oh look!!!” they’ll tell you, “yours is a 25 billion dollar industry – if you get just 1% of that, you’ll be rich!”… Bad news: you won’t] Because that’s not how to assess marketing to an industry, or figuring out what you will earn. If that worked, everyone entering a big market – like the automotive industry would be rich, wouldn’t they?
2. Worthless drawings. Today’s fraud comes from high priced drawings. Yea, they are real computer drawings. Wow, the prices you’ll pay – ten times, twenty times of what you’d be charged from an artist or art student.
3. Posted on their website. Your invention will have the opportunity to be missed by hundreds of millions of people — who will actually never get to this site. Your product will have no visitors, or so few it won’t matter, and certainly no buyers. Don’t fall for this chance to be clumped-in with other people who got ripped off from this worthless – and expensive – service.
4. A Cursory patent search. Real patent searched can be thorough, exhausting. You won’t get that. The fraudulent invention marketing firm will charge you whatever they think you’ll pay, and do the minimum of a search, if at all.
5. Cheaply written and designed, yet highly priced brochures. What are you going to do with these hastily put together brochures? You’re an inventor, not a marketer.
6. Poorly drafted press releases – all shoddily written – and no surprise: they’ll charge you heavy, heavy fees. Unless you know exactly what to do with a press release – and even lots of large firms don’t – you’ll have more worthless material. A press release is not a paper you send to firms to show your product in its best light. It’s for magazine distribution, and as such must be written and sent under the strictest of guidelines to get published.
7. They’ll “send your press release to all the top firms!” I can personally assure you this isn’t effective. That isn’t what a press release is for, and it’s certainly not an effective marketing technique.
8. They promise to “Alert the Industry! of your invention.” Whatever that means. I’ve been a marketer for 25 years and I still don’t know what anyone means when they say that. While I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, if I don’t know what this means, they probably don’t either. It’s B.S.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Ask for their figures: How many people made money from their invention – more money than they spent with the firm. The law says they need to disclose this figure to you.
Ask for REFERRALS of people WHO HAVE MADE MONEY from the company. And how much – a general range of their profits is fine: fifty bucks? A few hundred? A few thousand?
Write down names and phone numbers (and addresses) – and call them. Ask two questions: “How much money they spent with the firm!” And “How much money of actual income did they receive from their investment?”
If a company has hundreds, thousands of inventors they deal with, they should be able to come up with a few DOZEN names, recent names, of people who made money. If they dig back in their files to customers who made money in 2006, what does that tell you? Not one customer in the last 8 years made money.
Anybody can fake a review on-line with glowing praise, of how “nice they are to deal with.” “How they answered my questions,” and “How they created a great drawing on their website so I could see my invention come to life.” So what. If you want something to make you feel good, buy a dog. If you want a drawing of your invention, hire an artist at an art school – it will cost you ONE TENTH the cost.
You need to see this: “how many were sold.” You need “How much money someone made!” in a real $$$ figure. How much it cost the inventor and what did he (or she) get for his money, and… how much they made. Don’t accept a single isolated case as anything but an accident.
If you hire an invention marketing firm, they DO NOT need to upsell you 3-D cad-cam drawings for $3,500 – or more! They do need to show you exactly how they will generate sales, and a drawing on their website WILL NOT generate sales. (No one will go there). There may be 80 million people surfing the web, but NO ONE will go to your page since 1. they don’t know about it, 2. the firm won’t create a campaign to get people there, and 3. even if they did it won’t be effective: there are over 100,000,000 other websites to go to first. They need to show you exactly how they will make money for you, and how they did it for many, many of their other clients. So ask. Get specifics. It’s YOUR money.
Because I guarantee you this: they did NOT make money for other clients by selling them drawings and posting the drawings on their website. If they did, it was a freak accident and an isolated case. Get the figures, get the percentages – they have to show you – it’s the law: The Inventors Protection Ace of 1999. Ask how many inventors they accepted as customers, how many of them made more money than they spent with the marketing firm. You have a right to know. And what is the average cost a client spends with the company. And exactly what do they get for their money.
OK, enough about invention scam companies – I just get so pissed off because they steal so much money from innocent inventors, providing worthless – worthless – services in return. They bilk them out of their life savings – I know, because I’ve seen it firsthand. I talk to people all the time that have been ripped off. $10,000, $15,000 – even $25,000 pissed away with worthless fluff, lousy press releases and a phony marketing dance filled with hype, smoke and mirrors. I’ve seen an 85 year old man swindled out of his life savings of $11,000 for a set of worthless computer drawings on a website, and sold a dream of success.
I am so sorry for these inventors – good people with ideas and dreams. If you have been ripped off, please tell the company you want your money back – Refunds go to the loudest complainers… Sorry for the rant – I just get so angry.