Robert Susa tends to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
So that as president of invention submission company InventHelp Pittsburgh, Susa’s been doing plenty of pondering lately.
Since overtaking the majority of the day-to-day operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa has become 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 wish to be the excellent guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each and every inventor. InventHelp is really a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants other people to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual and other prototypes.
The company says it uses “a variety 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 think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of the possible acceptability or market potential of any new product idea or invention is any not just that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance through the marketplace. The only opinions that matter are the ones of companies who may take a look at invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies inside the inventing industry have already been as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business also known to numerous as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp is the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also referred to as Western Invention Submission Corp. along with a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the biggest inventor tradeshow in the states.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective clients their inventions are definitely 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 together with the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and sent to general addresses of targeted companies. And if or when those info packets neglect to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to purchase upgraded services for lots of money.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the full value of our services at the first meeting and survey clients to ascertain if they received that information in advance.”
As for the 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 initial report is perhaps all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is really what we think we should present a product or service to your company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. After you describe an invention, you’re really talking about the current market it suits. That marketing information is something we’ve purchased from government as well as other sources. The information is about the market, not the invention.
“If you had a baby product, be it a crib or even a bib, you’d look into the baby market,” he adds. “There will certainly be a sameness on it.”
So when for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are made available to a client in the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I understand businesses that keep seeking money; that’s not our policy whatsoever.”
To be sure, InventHelp has already established a colorful history, including run-ins together with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt along with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations using the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the type, quality and recovery rate of the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Beneath the terms of a consent decree, the organization create a $1.2 million account to pay for 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 also have managed to make it a 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 Usa government to adopt the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, which requires those invention submission firms to disclose licensing success rates, amongst other things.
InventHelp continues to be the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which are on the USPTO’s Website. Other Web sites warn inventors to step away from your company.
This year InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn and his 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 being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, is the “scam” label really justified? Can a business that’s been used since 1984 still thrive if this were “scamming” inventors every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. Due to our services, 86 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 27 clients have received more money compared to what they paid us of these services.”
Which means .5 percent of InventHelp client inventions clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions sent to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of around .5 percent, based on 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 in the last 5yrs:
“The total number of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or some other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The total amount of consumers over the last 5 years who made more money in royalties compared to what they paid, as a whole, under almost any agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent rate of success during 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 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 required to post our stats to our Internet site (although some 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.”
At the time of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, in accordance with 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 as of early just last year.
Freund says the corporation has launched “a handful of new items,” so the amount of people who’ve made more cash 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 figured these folks were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, simply how much better could you realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers business design? I’m not attempting to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You have to recognize earlier times. But being really fair, you will also have to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and then sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or possibly 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 as 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 in addition to founder Berger, Susa has become with a pursuit to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. In some cases they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought inside 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 Internet site offers multiple cautionary statements regarding the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says in case a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the company investigates. If it’s an initial-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson might be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better since we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the very best ever for the 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 access to been better. Greater usage of specifics of the invention industry, a recession which has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, and the resulting necessity for companies to appear outside their lairs for first time ideas has helped give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to take advantage of these confluent trends, spends thousands and thousands of dollars annually on television 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 deal with large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies in our data bank and all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and also have told us what areas of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses 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 being considered as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems prepared to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors ought to do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me how many of these inventors who state they have already been 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, and this needs to be legit,’ and that’s most likely the sum total in their research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach you without doing much, if any, work.”
Even lots of work is not going to guarantee market success. Susa discusses the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new form of toothbrush. Following a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test within the Midwest. The infomercial company given money for filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not just a success for us, but we did a phenomenal job getting the product available,” he says. “It experienced a similar process blockbuster products undergo.”
At the end of your day, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him when he says InventHelp desires to commercialize products.