Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And as president of invention submission company InventHelp Pittsburgh, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since taking over most of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa continues to be vexed by what he believes is undoubtedly an unfair characterization from the company as being a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We need to be the best guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each inventor. InventHelp is actually a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants another person to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual as well as other prototypes.
The business says it uses “a selection 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 Web site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance by the marketplace. The sole opinions that matter are the type of companies who may take a look at invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies in 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 is definitely the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also known as Western Invention Submission Corp. as well as a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & New Product Exposition or INPEX, the most important inventor tradeshow in the states.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospects their inventions would be 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 with all the description and image of the invention electronically inserted – and sent 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 get upgraded services for thousands of dollars.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the complete price of our services with the first meeting and survey clients to ascertain if they received that information in advance.”
When it comes to accusation that InventHelp invention service offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a method 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 something into a company.
“Most patent attorneys use a template. When you describe an invention, you’re really talking about the market it fits into. That marketing facts are something we’ve purchased from government and other sources. The details are in regards to the market, not the invention.
“If you had a new baby product, whether it is a crib or a bib, you’d research the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness into it.”
So when for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are given to a client in the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I am aware businesses that keep asking for money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To make sure, InventHelp has already established a colorful history, including run-ins together with the United states 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 together with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and recovery rate from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Beneath the terms of a consent decree, the business setup a $1.2 million account to pay refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, distributed over some 50 offices across the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and also have managed to get 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 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 continues to be the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which have the USPTO’s Internet site. Other Internet sites warn inventors to stay away from your company.
This season 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 through which he characterized InventHelp being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, may be the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s existed since 1984 still thrive if this were “scamming” inventors each and 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 received more money compared to what they paid us for these services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp Invention Ideas clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the amount percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions sent to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of approximately .5 percent, according to 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 Site that during the last 5yrs:
“The total quantity 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 over the last 5yrs who made additional money in royalties compared to they paid, as a whole, under any and all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
If you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness throughout the last 5 years.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew fails to 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 see 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 necessary to share our stats to our own Site (even though some other companies, like Davison, might be asked to do it from federal litigation against them). We share our stats in your first substantive communication with inventors.”
By February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, according to a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest 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 what they bought 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 this past year.
Freund says the corporation has launched “a number 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 are better than I figured these were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, how much better can you realistically expect these people to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not trying to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You ought to recognize earlier times. But to be really fair, you will also have to distinguish this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and later on sought to become 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 as a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. Which was 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role in addition to founder Berger, Susa is with a 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 within a guy who’s good 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 in the inventing industry. And Susa says in case a salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the organization investigates. If it’s an initial-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 getting better while we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this current year, the 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 been better. Greater use of information regarding the invention industry, a recession that has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, and also the resulting need for companies to look outside their lairs for new ideas helps give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, looking to take advantage of these confluent trends, spends large numbers 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 manage large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies within our data bank and all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and possess told us what areas of interest they need to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses that express curiosity about licensing certain new products 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 to be 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 in my opinion what number of these inventors who state they are already rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting the Internet “is where every one of the good ‘buyer beware’ information is.
“And they see something on television or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, and this must be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total in their due diligence.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach you without doing much, if any, work.”
Even a great deal of work is not going to guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. After having a promising start, a significant DRTV conducted a market test in the Midwest. The infomercial company paid for filming, the works. As well as the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not a success for people like us, but we did an extraordinary job getting the product available,” he says. “It underwent exactly the same process blockbuster products experience.”
At the conclusion of the day, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him as he says InventHelp wishes to commercialize products.