Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp, Susa’s been doing a lot of pondering lately.
Since overtaking most of the daily operations from founder Martin Berger a couple of years ago, Susa is vexed by what he believes is surely an unfair characterization in the company being a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We need to be the excellent 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 someone else to approach potential licensees and place together virtual as well as other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a variety of methods” to submit an understanding or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at industry events.
“We just do not assume that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of your possible acceptability or market potential of the cool product idea or invention is any more than simply that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance with the marketplace. The only opinions that matter are those of companies who may take a look at invention.”
While that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies inside the inventing industry have been as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business best known to numerous as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp will be 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 & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the greatest inventor tradeshow in the United States.
InventHelp sales reps tell potential customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to market them $800 information proposals. The proposals are derived from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate with all the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and sent to general addresses of targeted companies. And if or when those info packets forget to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to buy upgraded services for 1000s of dollars.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the entire expense of our services with the first meeting and survey clients to find out if they received that information at the start.”
With regards to accusation that InventHelp New Inventions offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a way to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the initial report will be all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is what we think we should present a product or service to a company.
“Most patent attorneys utilize a template. After you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the market it suits. That marketing information is something we’ve purchased from government as well as other sources. The information is in regards to the market, not the invention.
“If you had an infant product, be it a crib or possibly a bib, you’d investigate the baby market,” he adds. “There will be a sameness into it.”
And also as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are given to a client at the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I am aware companies that keep seeking money; that’s not our policy by any means.”
To be sure, InventHelp has already established a colorful history, including run-ins with the Usa Patent and Trademark Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt and with no finding of wrong doing, the business settled allegations with the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and effectiveness of the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Within the regards to a consent decree, the business set up 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 across the nation.
“We have embraced the consent decree and possess managed to make it element of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to go by the consent decree as 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 reveal licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp has become the objective of lawsuits and consumer complaints, a few of which are on the USPTO’s Internet site. Other Internet sites warn inventors to step away in the company.
This coming 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 in which he characterized InventHelp as being a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, will be the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s been used since 1984 still thrive if this 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 with regard to their products, and 27 clients have obtained additional money compared to they paid us for these particular services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp inventor service clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s twice the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions published to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates around .5 percent, based upon interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also based in Pittsburgh, reports on its Internet site that within the last 5yrs:
“The total amount of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or another licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The entire amount of consumers during the last 5yrs who made more money in royalties compared to they paid, in total, under almost any agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness during the last 5yrs.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew is not going to list licensing success rates on its site. AbsolutelyNew acquired certain assets of former – and notorious – invention submission company IP&R and relaunched beneath the new name in 2007 (please see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, we have been in compliance using the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew v . p . of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not required to share our stats to our Site (even though other manufacturers, like Davison, might be required to do this from federal litigation against them). We share our stats in 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 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 what they given money for marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties compared to they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew at the time of early just last year.
Freund says the organization has launched “a number of new releases,” so the volume of people who’ve made additional money than they’ve paid in fees should “increase significantly.”
Quinn, the patent attorney who fought InventHelp and settled this year, says InventHelp’s “numbers can be better than I assumed these people were.”
“If they might double what they’re doing now, simply how much better could you realistically expect those to do given their take-all-comers business structure? I’m not trying to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You need to recognize earlier times. But to be really fair, you also have to identify this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en route to a baseball career and then sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or a spook with all the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Right after a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. Which had been 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role as well as 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 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 a Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Web site offers multiple cautionary statements in regards to the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or else overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the company investigates. If it’s a first-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 when we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the ideal ever for your company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we have been. Here’s where we would like to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have been better. Greater usage of information about the invention industry, a recession containing compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, and the resulting necessity for companies to search outside their lairs for first time ideas has helped give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, planning to capitalize on these confluent trends, spends tens of thousands of dollars a year on television and radio commercials. The company’s ads together 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 manage large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies within our data bank and all of have signed non-disclosure agreements and possess told us what regions of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major firms 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 many years being seen as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems willing to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors ought to do their homework.
“It’s amazing if you ask me how many of these inventors who state they are already rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting that the Internet “is where all the good ‘buyer beware’ information and facts are.
“And they see something on TV or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, so this needs to be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total of the research.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach you without having done any much, if any, work.”
Even a lot of work is not going to guarantee market success. Susa talks about the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new form of toothbrush. After having a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test in the Midwest. The infomercial company bought filming, the works. And the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not really a success for us, but we did a phenomenal job getting this system out there,” he says. “It experienced the same process blockbuster products go through.”
Following the time, Susa wants the inventing community to assume him when he says InventHelp wishes to commercialize products.