Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like as he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp success, Susa’s been doing plenty of pondering lately.
Since taking over a lot of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa has been vexed with what he believes is definitely an unfair characterization of the company like 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 every inventor. InventHelp is a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the individual who wants another person to approach potential licensees and place together virtual and other prototypes.
The company says it uses “a assortment of methods” to submit an idea 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 your cool product idea or invention is any more than just that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Website states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance from the marketplace. Really the only opinions that matter are the type of companies who may review your invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies from the inventing industry happen to be as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business best known to numerous as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp may be the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), often known as Western Invention Submission Corp. as well as a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the greatest inventor tradeshow in the usa.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospects their inventions are 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 using the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and sent to general addresses of targeted companies. And when 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 full expense of our services in the first meeting and survey clients to determine if they received that information in advance.”
When it comes to accusation that InventHelp Pittsburgh offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a way 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 exactly what we think we should present a product to some company.
“Most patent attorneys work with a template. As soon as you describe an invention, you’re really talking about the current market it fits into. That marketing information is something we’ve purchased in government as well as other sources. The information is about the market, not the invention.
“If you have an infant product, whether it is a crib or a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness into it.”
And as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are presented to a person on the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I know companies that keep asking for money; that’s not our policy by any means.”
To be certain, InventHelp has already established 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 company settled allegations with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and effectiveness from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Within the relation to a consent decree, the corporation setup 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 country wide.
“We have embraced the consent decree and have made it element of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to go by the consent decree as 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 disclose licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp has become the marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, a few of which are saved to the USPTO’s Internet site. Other Web sites warn inventors to stay away in the company.
This coming 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 information on 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, is definitely the “scam” label really justified? Can a business that’s existed since 1984 still thrive when it were “scamming” inventors each and every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. Due to our services, 86 clients have obtained license agreements for his or her products, and 27 clients have received more income compared to they paid us for these particular services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp New Inventions clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the amount percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions submitted 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 situated in Pittsburgh, reports on its Internet site that in the last 5 years:
“The total quantity of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or another licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The entire quantity of consumers over the last five years who made more money in royalties compared to what they paid, as a whole, under any and all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
If you do the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent success rate throughout the last 5 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 under the new name in 2007 (please see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, our company is in compliance together with the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew vice president of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not required to post our stats to your Website (even though some other businesses, like Davison, might be asked to do it from federal litigation against them). We share our stats inside our first substantive communication with inventors.”
As of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, according to 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 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 just last year.
Freund says the corporation has launched “a lot of new products,” so the volume of people who’ve made more income than they’ve paid in fees should “increase significantly.”
Quinn, the patent attorney who fought InventHelp and settled this current year, says InventHelp’s “numbers are superior to I assumed they were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, just how much better could you possibly realistically expect these to do given their take-all-comers business design? I’m not trying to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize earlier times. But to become really fair, you will also have to recognize this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and later on sought to become fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or even a spook with the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Following a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That had been 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role along with founder Berger, Susa has become with a pursuit 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 any Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Web site offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says if your salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the organization investigates. If it’s a first-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson could be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and receiving better when we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this year, the most effective ever for 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 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 requirement for companies to search outside their lairs for brand new ideas has helped produce a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, planning to exploit these confluent trends, spends thousands and thousands of dollars a year on tv 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 cope with large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies within our data bank and all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and get told us what aspects of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major companies that express fascination with licensing certain new items 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 to be seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems ready to join the polite community.”
He also contends that inventors or would-be inventors ought to do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me how many of these inventors who claim to have been rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting that this Internet “is where every one of the good ‘buyer beware’ information is.
“And they see something in the media or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means that this needs to be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total with their research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach you without doing much, if any, work.”
Even a lot of work does not guarantee market success. Susa covers the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new form of toothbrush. After a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test in the Midwest. The infomercial company paid for filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not just a success for us, but we did an extraordinary job getting this device available,” he says. “It went through the identical process blockbuster products undergo.”
At the conclusion of the time, Susa wants the inventing community to imagine him as he says InventHelp desires to commercialize products.