Robert Susa has a tendency to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like as he ponders.
So that as president of invention submission company InventHelp invention service, Susa’s been doing a lot of pondering lately.
Since overtaking a lot of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa has become vexed by what he believes is definitely an unfair characterization of your company like 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 one who wants someone else to approach potential licensees and put together virtual and 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 trade shows.
“We simply do not think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of the possible acceptability or market potential of the cool product idea or invention is any more than just that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance from the marketplace. The only real opinions that matter are those of companies who may take a look at invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies in the inventing industry are already as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business best known to many as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp is 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 & New Product Exposition or INPEX, the biggest inventor tradeshow in the United States.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective clients their inventions are definitely the greatest things since sliced bread to market them $800 information proposals. The proposals are based on 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 if or when those info packets forget to produce 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 full price of our services at the first meeting and survey clients to see if they received that information in advance.”
When it comes to accusation that InventHelp invention service 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 exactly what we think we have to present an item to some company.
“Most patent attorneys use a template. When you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the marketplace it suits. That marketing information and facts are something we’ve purchased from government and also other sources. The details are in regards to the market, not the invention.
“If you experienced a child product, be it a crib or even a bib, you’d investigate the baby market,” he adds. “There is a sameness with it.”
So when for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are presented to a person with the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I know businesses that keep asking for money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To be sure, InventHelp has experienced a colorful history, including run-ins using the United states Patent and Trademark Office and also the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the nature, quality and recovery rate of your promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Within the regards to a consent decree, the corporation create a $1.2 million account to spend refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, distributed over some 50 offices across the nation.
“We have embraced the consent decree and have managed to get component of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to follow along with the consent decree as 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 continues to be the prospective of lawsuits and consumer complaints, a few of which have the USPTO’s Site. Other Sites warn inventors to keep away from the company.
This 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 by which he characterized InventHelp as being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, is the “scam” label really justified? Can a business that’s been around since 1984 still thrive whether 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 obtained license agreements for his or her products, and 27 clients have obtained additional money compared to what they paid us for such services.”
Which means .5 percent of InventHelp New 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 of about .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 located in Pittsburgh, reports on its Website that over 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 whole quantity of consumers over the last 5yrs who made additional money in royalties compared to what they paid, overall, under all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you do the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent recovery rate over the past five-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 within the new name in 2007 (please see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, we are in compliance with 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 Internet site (even though others, like Davison, might be asked to do this from federal litigation against them). We share our stats within our first substantive communication with inventors.”
By February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, according to 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 they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew since early this past year.
Freund says the business has launched “a bunch of new services,” so the number 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 coming year, says InventHelp’s “numbers can be better than I figured these were.”
“If they would double what they’re doing now, how much better can you realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers business structure? I’m not attempting to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You ought to recognize the last. But being 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 sought to become a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or possibly a spook using the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Following a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That was 20 years ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role along 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. In some instances they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought within a 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 Website offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success within the inventing industry. And Susa says in case a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the corporation 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 year, the very best ever for the company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we wish to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have been better. Greater entry to information about the invention industry, a recession which includes compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, as well as the resulting requirement for companies to search outside their lairs for brand new ideas has helped bring about a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, looking to maximize these confluent trends, spends large numbers of dollars per year on tv and radio commercials. The company’s ads 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 handle large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies in your data bank and all sorts of have signed non-disclosure agreements and get told us what parts of interest they want to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses 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 many years of being seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems able to join the polite community.”
He also contends that inventors or would-be inventors need to do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me what number of these inventors who claim to are already rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting the Internet “is where all of the good ‘buyer beware’ information and facts are.
“And they see something on TV or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means this needs to be legit,’ and that’s probably the sum total in their homework.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach without having done much, if any, work.”
Even a lot of work does not guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new form of toothbrush. After a promising start, a major DRTV conducted a market test from the Midwest. The infomercial company bought filming, the works. Along with the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not just a success for all of us, but we did a phenomenal job getting this device around,” he says. “It went through the identical process blockbuster products go through.”
At the end of the time, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him as he says InventHelp wants to commercialize products.