If all you have of your product is an idea, don't ever take the easy way out and think an invention company is going to do everything for you. Many of these companies are not the real deal. Avoid getting ripped off.
Time Required: Ongoing
- Ask for their success rate: Ask for in writing the number of ideas they have represented and how many inventors made more money than they invested.
- Ask for references: Ask for the names of three satisfied customers that you can talk to.
- Avoid too much pressure: Are their sales people calling you often? Are you hearing, "Let's do it now/asap."
- Are they sending you pre-signed confidentiality agreements in their "free kits": No, you sign agreements after you decide you want to use them or anyone else (but before discussion of any ideas).
- Have they asked you to write your ideas down and mail them to yourself? That is not protection.
- Early in your discussions, ask what the total cost of services will be. Any hesitation to answer is a bad sign.
- Market evaluations provide an objective evaluation of the merit, technical feasibility, and commercial viability of your invention. Ask for their criteria, system of review, and the qualifications of company evaluators.
- Do they check on pre-existing patents for your same idea. Bad companies will promote almost any idea, without knowing if there is patent infringement involved.
- Do their "patent searches" come without a written opinion of patentability? Do they refuse to provide in writing the number of favorable patent searches vs unfavorable searches. You will want both.
- Do they recommend that a design patent be applied for? Only a minority of inventions should fall in this category. Also watch out if they offer a "money back guarantee" if the patent does not issue.
- If they claim to have a special relationship with a manufacturer, ask for proof. Watch out, if they ask you to submit your idea to a manufacturer before you have a patent.
- Avoid a jack-of-all-trades. They send a "free kit" or in reality more advertising, then sell you a market evaluation package, and later a patent, marketing and licensing package. No one is an expert in all those fields.
- Watch out for addresses that don't match, they claim to be in one state but the mailing address is different. Ditto for no direct phone contact, are you always reaching their voicemail?
- Ask all the above questions and be on triple alert if your are responding to a slick TV, radio and magazine ad. Yes, the real guys have to advertise too, so know what to look out for.
- Investigate the good guys too. Even if none of the above apply, call your local Better Business Bureau, check with the FTC and the bad guys listings under "Invention Company Scams".
- In reality, few patents make money, most real invention service providers are highly selective about who they work with.
- Deal with each aspect of your invention process separately to get quality, legitimate work.
- Therefore use patent lawyers/agents for filing and searching - and specialists for such services as prototype or mold making, manufacturing, market evaluation, advertising, licensing etc..