Robert Susa has a tendency to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And as president of invention submission company InventHelp office location, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since taking over most of the everyday operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa has become vexed by what he believes is surely an unfair characterization of the company like a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We wish to be the excellent guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for every inventor. InventHelp can be a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the person who wants other people to approach potential licensees and set together virtual as well as 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 feel that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of the possible acceptability or market potential of a 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 by the marketplace. The only real opinions that matter are those of companies who may review your invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies from the inventing industry happen to be as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business also known to many as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp is the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also known as Western Invention Submission Corp. plus 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 potential customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to offer them $800 information proposals. The proposals are based on a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate with all 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 fail to generate 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 entire price of our services on the first meeting and survey clients to ascertain if they received that information up front.”
As for the accusation that InventHelp locations offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a means to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the first report is perhaps all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is really what we think we must present something to some company.
“Most patent attorneys work with a template. After you describe an invention, you’re really discussing the industry it suits. That marketing details are something we’ve purchased from government along with other sources. The details are in regards to the market, not the invention.
“If you needed a child product, whether it is a crib or even a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There is a sameness on it.”
So that as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are presented to a customer in the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I realize firms that keep requesting money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To be certain, InventHelp has experienced a colorful history, including run-ins using the Usa Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt with no finding of wrong doing, the organization settled allegations with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the type, quality and effectiveness of the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Within the regards to a consent decree, the organization create a $1.2 million account to cover refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, spread over some 50 offices across the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and have managed to make it 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 United states 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 has become the prospective of lawsuits and consumer complaints, most of which are on the USPTO’s Internet site. Other Web sites warn inventors to keep away in the company.
This 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 specifics of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts by which he characterized InventHelp as a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, may be the “scam” label really justified? Can a business that’s been around since 1984 still thrive if this were “scamming” inventors on a regular basis?
“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 obtained more cash than they paid us for such services.”
Which means .5 percent of InventHelp inventions 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 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 operating out of Pittsburgh, reports on its Internet site that in the last five-years:
“The total amount of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or some other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The complete quantity of consumers during the last 5yrs who made more money in royalties than they paid, overall, under any and all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
If you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent recovery rate over the last five-years.
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 within 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 using the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew vice president of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not essential to share our stats to our own Internet site (even though other companies, like Davison, might be required to achieve 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, based on 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 bought 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 since early a year ago.
Freund says the organization has launched “a bunch of new services,” so the quantity 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 year, says InventHelp’s “numbers are superior to I thought these folks were.”
“If they might double what they’re doing now, just how much better can you realistically expect these people to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not seeking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize the last. But to be really fair, you might also need to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and later sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or even a spook with all the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. After having a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. Which was 20 years ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role along with founder Berger, Susa is with a mission to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. Occasionally they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought within a guy who’s great at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of your Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Site offers multiple cautionary statements regarding 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 can be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better while we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this current year, the very best ever to the 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 use of information about the invention industry, a recession which has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, along with the resulting requirement for companies to appear outside their lairs for new ideas has helped bring about a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to capitalize on these confluent trends, spends large numbers of dollars per year on television and radio commercials. The company’s ads with all 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 deal with large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies in your data bank and have signed non-disclosure agreements and have told us what areas of interest they need to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major companies that express curiosity about 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 years being regarded as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems prepared to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors must do their homework.
“It’s amazing if you ask me what number 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’ information and facts are.
“And they see something in the media or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, so this needs 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 you without having done much, if any, work.”
Even plenty of work does not guarantee market success. Susa talks about the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. After a promising start, a significant DRTV conducted a market test within the Midwest. The infomercial company purchased filming, the works. As well as the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not much of a success for people, but we did a phenomenal job getting this device around,” he says. “It experienced exactly the same process blockbuster products experience.”
Following the time, Susa wants the inventing community to believe him as he says InventHelp desires to commercialize products.