I’ve been on the bandwagon against idea submission companies for many years because of their dismal success rate…. and the amount of money they supposedly charge.
But how much do they ACTUALLY charge, and what do they ACTUALLY do?
I decided to get this information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” so I made an appointment to meet with the idea submission company nearest me, InventHelp’s local office in Burbank, California.
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to bash InventHelp, only to share my experience. They offer a service, albeit a very expensive one, and they have awful statistics when it comes to their clients making more money from a licensing deal than they paid InventHelp for their help services — a success rate of less then half a percent, as stated on their own website. (Also see my other post on idea submission companies.) copexactly .47% According to their statement at the bottom of the ‘Client Invention Stories’ webpage, when you do the math this is less than one half of one percent.
Into the belly of the beast
When I arrived for my meeting, the first thing I had to do was fill out two forms:
1) ‘Statement of Confidentiality and Non-Use.’ This basically states that your invention won’t be used, sold, assigned, or disclosed to any other person, organization or corporation without your permission
2) ‘Disclosure to InventHelp and Record of Invention.’ It states that the inventor (who is filling out the form) revealed his/her invention to InventHelp on ______date. There is a space to sketch out the inventor’s idea, and then a series of questions where the inventor describes his/her invention. I brought an actual prototype so I didn’t have to sketch anything.
Then the Regional Sales Director escorted me into his office and asked me to show and demonstrate my invention. I complied.
He asked if I planned to patent the product. I told him I didn’t know if it was even patentable, but that I had filed a provisional patent application (PPA). He informed me that provisional patents (he left out ‘application’) aren’t valuable even for their intended use. He backed that up by telling me about the March 16, 2013 ‘first-to-file‘ law. (I address this subject at the end of this post.)
I felt this was a bit of a scare tactic, but I refrained from comment.
Stage Two of the meeting
After I said my piece (about the invention I had brought along), he started his presentation to me:
First, they offer a patent search service through third party legal at a cost of $199. (This is something you can do for free, right from your home computer.)
Second, they offer the ‘Basic Information Package’ (BIP). This is where they “assemble basic information about your invention, idea, concept or new product and the history of its development in a report format.” This report is bound as a glossy hard cover book. It resembles a textbook, but with far fewer pages. Cost = $746
The Basic Information Package Service combines the above two items, total cost = $945.
He wrapped this part of the presentation with, “That’s step one.”
I told him I’d have to talk to my wife and ask her about putting this on a credit card. His face went blank, he sat back in his chair and regrouped as I had just broke his pattern. “Oh, you gotta ask your wife…” he said.
I asked what step two was, and he said, “We discuss that after step one.”
I asked what the total costs were. He sat back in his chair again and said, “Ten thousand nine hundred dollars.”
Then he asked me to sign the Affirmative Disclosure Form, which very clearly states the following:
1) From 2010-2012, we signed Submission Agreements with 4,671 clients. As a result of our services, 141 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 22 clients have received more money than they paid us for these services.
2) We charge $945 for a Basic Information Package. We charge from $10,900 to 15,900 for our marketing, licensing or promotional services.
3) We do not evaluate or appraise the merit or marketability of your idea or invention. Therefore, if we or our sales consultants tell you, for example, that your idea is ‘good,’ is ‘potentially marketable,’ is commercially feasible’ or that it is ‘promotable,’ such statements represent only the opinion of InventHelp, Western InventHelp or its sales consultants, and in no way imply that a competent and objective appraisal or evaluation of the merit or marketability of your idea or product has been conducted.
4) The marketing or licensing of a new product is a difficult and very uncertain process with no guarantee of success or profit. Therefore, the receipt of royalties, license fees, sales proceeds or other forms of revenue is a contingent possibility only. You should refer to the information provided in paragraph 1 above when considering this possibility.
I signed the form. He then gave me a file folder with:
- a copy of the forms I had signed,
- three brochures entitled, ‘How We Work,’ ‘About The Basic Information Package’ and ‘Patent Referral Services,’
- and a ‘Service and Fees’ brochure where they list our what you get for your money.
Their brochures are scattered with all sorts of disclosures such as, (their emphasis in capitalization) “OUR BUSINESS IS TO HELP INVENTORS SUBMIT IDEAS TO INDUSTRY IN THE HOPE THAT COMPANIES WILL GIVE THESE IDEAS A GOOD-FAITH REVIEW. THIS IS A DIFFICULT PROCEDURE AND CHANCES OF FINANCIAL SUCCESS ARE SMALL.”
In the ‘How We Work’ brochure there is a block of copy that reads (their emphasis in capitalization) “DESPITE OUR ATTEMPTS TO GET SOME ATTENTION FOR YOUR IDEA THROUGH THESE METHODS,YOU MUST REMEMBER IT IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY DIFFICULT THING TO DO, AND YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING GOOD RESULTS ARE EXTREMELY SMALL.”
So, what DO they do for you?
You get a “patent search” (which just means checking to see if their are existing patents close in scope to your idea). They hook you up with a patent attorney (which you have to pay for out of your own wallet). You get a bound book that describes your product. You get placed in their catalog of products, with an iffy chance at having them actually pursue a meeting on your product’s behalf. In fact I don’t think they even offer that service of finding the right company for your particular product for the sake of presenting only your product.
InventHelp charges $945 + $10,900 = $11,845 for these services.
Aw, come on. You can do this better (far better) yourself — and for a fraction of the cost.
On the way out the door, I asked if they (InventHelp) shared in any of the royalties (in the unlikely event that any royalties come in at all).
He said, “You keep all royalties until you recoup the amount of money you pay us. Then it’s an 80/20 split with the inventor getting 80% and InventHelp getting 20%.”
As mentioned in my other post, Are Submission Companies Any Good, InventHelp has a success rate of less than half a percent. Obviously, the company does NOT make its money by “sharing royalties” with inventors.
They clearly have a sales force — but their salesmen aren’t out selling inventions. They’re busy selling YOU on the idea that it’s “hard” to sell inventions.
In my opinion, you can do everything they do for a fraction of the cost, I know because I have done it many times in the past, and I will continue to do it in the future.
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Regarding the ‘first-to-file’ law and the provisional patent – the following is an excerpt from an article from TechCrunch.com (Click for full article).
“However, the term “first-to-file” is a bit of a misnomer. In the United States, whether under first-to-invent or first-to-file, an inventor can publicly disclose their invention, such as in a blog post, and still file a patent application within one year of that public disclosure. The system being implemented under the AIA is not a true first-to-file system as in most foreign countries because this grace period on public disclosure will remain.”
Further, it reads:
“Therefore, companies should look to establish processes to quickly and efficiently identify inventions, and to determine whether to file patent applications or to otherwise publicly disclose those inventions. If the technology is worthy of patent protection, filing a series of low-cost provisional applications during the course of development of the technology can be a cost-effective way to establish a series of early “first-to-file” filing dates for the technology.”
Photo of man and binoculars courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net