Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like when he ponders.
And also as president of invention submission company InventHelp phone number, Susa’s been doing a great deal of pondering lately.
Since overtaking many of the daily operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa continues to be vexed with what he believes is an unfair characterization in the company being a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We desire to be the great guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for every single inventor. InventHelp is actually a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the individual that wants someone else to approach potential licensees and put together virtual along with other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a assortment of methods” to submit a perception or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at industry events.
“We simply do not think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion of the possible acceptability or market potential of the cool product idea or invention is any not just that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Site states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance by the marketplace. Really the only opinions that matter are the type of companies who may take a look at invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies in the inventing industry are already as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business commonly known to many as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp may be the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), often known as Western Invention Submission Corp. as well as a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the biggest inventor tradeshow in the usa.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospective customers their inventions are the greatest things since sliced bread to promote them $800 information proposals. The proposals derive from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate together with the description and image of the invention electronically inserted – and delivered to general addresses of targeted companies. Of course, if or when those info packets fail to generate a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to buy upgraded services for thousands of dollars.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the complete price of our services at the first meeting and survey clients to determine if they received that information up front.”
As for the accusation that InventHelp offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a way to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the initial report is all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is the thing that we believe we have to present something into a company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. When you describe an invention, you’re really speaking about the industry it suits. That marketing facts are something we’ve purchased in government as well as other sources. The details are in regards to the market, not the invention.
“If you experienced a new baby product, whether it is a crib or even a bib, you’d investigate the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness on it.”
And also as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are made available to a client on the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I know companies that keep looking for money; that’s not our policy at all.”
To be sure, InventHelp has experienced a colorful history, including run-ins with the United states Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt and with no finding of wrong doing, the company settled allegations with all the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the character, quality and recovery rate from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Beneath the regards to a consent decree, the corporation set up a $1.2 million account to cover refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, distributed over some 50 offices across the country.
“We have embraced the consent decree and also have made it a part of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to follow the consent decree like 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 disclose licensing success rates, amongst other things.
InventHelp is the marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, some of which are stored on the USPTO’s Web site. Other Websites warn inventors to stay away from your company.
This current 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 specifics of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts in which he characterized InventHelp like a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, is the “scam” label really justified? Can a firm that’s existed since 1984 still thrive whether it were “scamming” inventors every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. As a result of our services, 86 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 27 clients have obtained more money compared to what they paid us for these particular services.”
This means .5 percent of InventHelp George Foreman 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, according to interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also situated in Pittsburgh, reports on its Internet site that within the last five-years:
“The total quantity of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or any other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The total variety of consumers over the last 5yrs who made more money in royalties than they paid, in total, under any and all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent recovery rate during the last five years.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew will not 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 are in compliance with the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew vice president of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not required to publish our stats to our own Internet site (although some other manufacturers, like Davison, might be required to do so from federal litigation against them). We share our stats within our first substantive communication with inventors.”
As of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, in accordance with a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest a year ago. Of 1,638 client contracts completed, 80 clients, or 4.88 percent, obtained licensing agreements.
Five licensed clients “have already earned more in royalties than they purchased marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties compared to what they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew as of early this past year.
Freund says the organization has launched “a bunch of new items,” 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 current year, says InventHelp’s “numbers can be better than I was thinking these people were.”
“If they would double what they’re doing now, simply how much better could you possibly realistically expect them to do given their take-all-comers enterprise model? I’m not looking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You ought to recognize earlier times. But to get really fair, there is also to identify this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en way to a baseball career and then sought as a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or a spook with the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. Following a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. Which was 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role along with founder Berger, Susa has become over a 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 within 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 Internet site offers multiple cautionary statements concerning the odds against financial success from the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the organization investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson could be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better since we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the ideal ever for the company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we have been. Here’s where we want to be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have access to been better. Greater use of details about the invention industry, a recession which has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, as well as the resulting necessity for companies to appear outside their lairs for brand new ideas has helped give rise to a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, planning to take advantage of these confluent trends, spends tens of thousands of dollars each year on tv and radio commercials. The company’s ads 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 deal with large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies within our data bank and all sorts of have signed non-disclosure agreements and also have told us what areas of interest they would like to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major businesses that express curiosity about licensing certain new services from InventHelp clients.
Quinn, the patent attorney and prolific blogger who arguably has more reason to loathe InventHelp than most others, avers that after years of being considered as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems prepared to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors need to do their homework.
“It’s amazing for me what number of these inventors who claim to happen to be rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting the Internet “is where every one of the good ‘buyer beware’ information is.
“And they see something on TV or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, so this must be legit,’ and that’s likely the sum total with their homework.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach without doing much, if any, work.”
Even a great deal of work is not going to guarantee market success. Susa covers the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new kind of toothbrush. Following a promising start, a serious DRTV conducted a market test from the Midwest. The infomercial company given money for filming, the works. And also the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not just a success for us, but we did an extraordinary job getting the product on the market,” he says. “It underwent exactly the same process blockbuster products experience.”
At the conclusion of the morning, Susa wants the inventing community to imagine him as he says InventHelp would like to commercialize products.