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Evaluating Invention Submitters and Marketing Agents


Many of our clients (and clients to-be) who have patents ask us about the invention submission or invention help services that claim they will either submit your invention to manufacturers, or develop it for you so that it can then be submitted.  In general, these firms are ineffective.  Few of them are outright scams; they do what their fine-print claims they’ll do.  This concession is because some of the officers of the scammers have gone to prison in the past.  But do they provide you with valuable services, and earn their high prices?  The answer isalmost certainly no. 

     Many inventors are also worried that their ideas or inventions will be stolen.  These fellows aren’t inter-ested in stealing anyone’s invention.  That means they’d have to work to make money, and it’s much, much easier to take the uninformed inventor’s money without the hard work of producing and marketing.

     The invention submitters and developers make an enormous amount of money by turning out carbon-copy boilerplate, and often inadequate prototypes and worthless patents.  They become enormously wealthy because what they do is virtually risk free, and pays them outrageous fees upfront.  Taking on actually developing an invention, and then submitting it to industry, has a poor record of producing profit.  In short, it demandswork and risk, something that repels the “sharks.”   (I don’t mean to sound too discouraging at this point.  Properly coached by an ethical service, your chances of success are greatly improved.) 

     To be fair, there are a few developers who, if they accept your invention, will actually develop it and take it to market without your having to invest money up front.  Unlike the heavily advertised submitters and developers, the ethical persons or firms accept very few inventions that cross their desks.  My estimate is that it’s less than 5 percent.  (Evergreen IP, one of the ethical developers, stated in a recent e-mail that they had accepted only 12 of about 1500 inventions proposed to them.  That’s just a bit less than 1 percent, about the same as the success rate of the submitters who charge outrageous fees.)  .  

     What about invention marketing agents?

Shouldn’t an agent work strictly on commission, like a real-estate agent?  Theoretically, yes.  And the best agents do.  They don’t charge you anything for their efforts except perhaps travel expenses if they have to visit a long-distance potential licensee.  However, expect an effective agent to want from 30 to 50 per-cent of whatever income you might collect from your licensee in royalties, or a lump-sum buyout. 

     Is 50 percent outrageous?  Not in our opinion. There often is a long, dry period between the time they take on an invention and when the first payment is received.  Meanwhile, they have living and busi-ness expenses.  And licensing is a risky business; many inventions don’t get licensed in spite of their best efforts. 

     How does an inventor tell the difference between the sharks and the good guys?  Here are two ques-tions that you should ask of any invention submitter, developer, helper, or marketing agent:

     1. Out of 100 inventions submitted to you, how many do you accept and work on?  The answer should be no more than 20 percent—ideally, less than 10 percent.  Any person or firm accepting more than 20 percent of the proposed ideas or inventions, in our opinion, is either unethical or deluded.  To work on an invention that obviously does not merit the work, is to take an inventor’s money under false pretense, or, in the case of an invention marketing agent, is giving false encouragement to the inventor.  And the agents who take on more than a few percent put the less promising inventions on a back burner, and work on those that look most promising. 

     2. Will you give me the names of three clients whose inventions have earned more than they paid you?  Answers such as “Our client list is confi-dential.” or “Our offices are scattered all over the country.  We just don’t get this kind of feedback.”  are typical, and are utter nonsense.  Any person or firm that succeeds on behalf of his or her clients finds that 90 percent of those clients are happy to have their names used.  We speak from experience.  Check our web site for our client’s words, photos, names, and towns.

     If you are still tempted to use an invention sub-mitter or helper, have an attorney check their fine print very carefully before you sign anything.  And always ask their full cost.  Typically, this is from $12,000 to $15,000.

     Effective agents who don’t charge up-front fees are hard to find, but we list a few in our “golden Rolodex.”  (We are mentors, not marketing agents.)  See our web site for upcoming seminars

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