Be Wary of Ill-Intentioned Invention Promoters

August 05, 2011
Every year, thousands of promising inventors attempt to patent and market their ideas to the public. Developing an invention can be challenging, costly and competitive; as a result, many inventors turn to invention promoters, but Better Business Bureau warns that not all firms have the right intentions.

Some companies offer to conduct research or market evaluations on invention ideas. Others promise to help with patenting, licensing or marketing. Beware if companies:

  • Insist on substantial upfront fees.
  • Won't disclose other clients' success and rejection rates.
  • Guarantee profits and refuse to provide written documentation of promises.

Realistically, few patented inventions are successful and most reputable firms:

  • Are highly selective.
  • Rely on royalties from successful clients' inventions.
  • Will not promote ideas if there are patent infringement risks.

During National Inventors Month, the BBB serving Mississippi recommends steps to help protect inventors' investments:

· Document everything. Fill out a Record of Invention to help experts determine whether patent protection will be sought. This legal form briefly describes the invention, date of conception, its advantages and features.

· Understand how patents work. Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database for competing patents and trademarks.

· Consider the costs. It takes time and money to develop inventions. Calculate possible fees and expenses.

· Investigate prospective "Product Development and Marketing" companies and "Patent Agents." Check for records with BBB.

· Consult experts. Search for patent attorneys and agents through the USPTO.

· Know the laws. The American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 requires invention promoters to reveal details on their success rates within the previous five years. Compare how many inventions have been evaluated to the number produced.

· Before discussing ideas, request a copy of the company's confidentiality agreement and review it carefully before signing.

The Federal Trade Commission covers more tips on avoiding fraudulent invention promotion firms and their sweet-sounding promises. File complaints with the USPTO.