Important Information When Considering an Invention Promotion Firm
By www.ftc.gov Federal Trade Commission
Think you have a great idea for a new product or service? You're not alone. Every year, tens
of thousands of people try to develop their ideas and commercially market them.
Some people try to sell their idea or invention to a manufacturer that would market it and pay
royalties. But finding a company to do that can be difficult. As an alternative, others use the
services of an invention promotion firm. Indeed, some inventors pay thousands of dollars to
firms that promise to evaluate, develop, patent, and market inventions ... and then do little
or nothing for their fees.
Unscrupulous promoters take advantage of an inventor's enthusiasm for a new product or
service. They not only urge inventors to patent their ideas or invention, but they also make
false and exaggerated claims about the market potential of the invention. The facts are:
o few inventions ever make it to the marketplace; and
o although a patent can provide valuable protection for a successful invention, getting a patent
doesn't necessarily increase the chances of commercial success.
There's great satisfaction in developing a new product or service and in getting a patent. But
when it comes to determining market potential, inventors should proceed with caution as they
try to avoid falling for the sweet-sounding promises of a fraudulent promotion firm.
Using Invention Promotion Firms
Advertisements for invention promotion firms are on television, radio and the Internet, and in
newspapers and magazines. These ads target independent inventors with offers of free
information on how to patent and market their inventions. Often, however, the only information
you get is about the promoter.
If you respond to the ads — which may urge you to call a toll-free number — you may hear
back from a salesperson who will ask for a sketch of the invention and information about you
and your idea. As an inducement, a firm may offer to do a free preliminary review of your invention.
Some invention promotion firms may claim to know or have special access to manufacturers who
are likely to be interested in licensing your invention. In addition, some firms may claim to
represent manufacturers on the look-out for new product ideas. Ask for proof, such as contacts
at manufacturers, before you sign a contract with any invention promotion firm that claims
special relationships with manufacturers. If the promoter provides only one or two names, be
careful: The contacts may be "shills" — people hired to give favorable testimonials.
After giving your invention a preliminary review, a firm might tell you it needs to do a market
evaluation of your idea — for a fee that can be several hundred dollars. Many questionable
firms don't do any genuine research or market evaluations. Sometimes the "research" is bogus,
and the "positive" reports are mass-produced in an effort to sell clients on additional invention
promotion and marketing services. Fraudulent invention promotion firms don't offer an honest
appraisal of the merit, technical feasibility, or market potential of an invention.
Some invention promotion firms also may offer a contract in which they agree to help you
market and license your invention to manufacturers. Unscrupulous promoters may require you
to pay a fee of several thousand dollars in advance, or to agree to make credit payments instead.
Reputable licensing agents usually don't rely on large advance fees. Rather, they
depend on royalties from the successful licensing of client inventions. How can they make
money when so few inventions achieve commercial success? They're choosy about which
ideas or inventions they pursue. If a firm is enthusiastic about the market potential of your
idea — but wants to charge you a large fee in advance — take your business elsewhere.