How to Spot an Invention Promotion Scam
1. Companies change names on a regular basis to avoid bad reputations, so "Inventomatic Partners, Inc." might morph into "Gee-Whiz Inventco LLC" within a month or so.2. The larger and more successful companies (in terms of making money for themselves, not you) tend to sue anyone who says anything negative about their company. So offering opinions about any particular company is just not worthwhile.3. The nature and extent of the schemes they use vary and change over time. As authorities crack down on one type of activity, they morph their scheme to something which, while not against the law, is certainly not a good bargain.4. Often what they are doing is merely overcharging for inferior services - which is not against the law in this country. If it were, GM would be bankrupt. OK, that is a bad example. But selling an inferior product or service for too-high a price is not illegal.
1. The Book Publishing Scam: Outlined in the example above. We'll find a publisher for your book for a nominal fee. Send them money and nothing happens.
2. The Poetry Scam: Similar, but they tell Grandma her poem about kittens and flowers is so great it will be published in their national poetry book - if she agrees to buy 10 copies for herself and her friends for $50 a copy.
3. Time-Share Resale Scam: They ask for $500 to advertise your time-share or to find a buyer for it. They put an ad in a publication which may or may not get wide distribution. No one buys (Time-Shares are a ripoff to begin with) but they will keep the $500, thanks.
4. The Great World of Sound: See the movie by the same name. "Record Promoters" go from town to town, promising starry-eyed musicians a chance at the big time - if they pony up a few grand for "recording expenses." They take the money and then leave town.
5. License your Patent: You get a Patent, and your name and address are published in the electronic records of the USPTO. You start getting form letters from companies saying that for a few hundred dollars, they can sell or license your Patent. You send them money, they prepare and mail a brochure (or send you the brochures for you to mail yourself). Nothing comes of it, but they keep the money. You could create an mail your own brochure for far less.
6. Car/RV/Boat sales: This was popular during the recession in 2009. This is an extension of this scam in time for the recession. Sales of used cars and particularly Boats and RVs have tanked in the last year. You put an ad on Craigslist or in Autotrader or Boattrader and you get an illegal robo-call from a company offering, for $500, to market your "vehicle". They claim that not only will they sell your vehicle, but get over book value for it - and line up financing for the buyer. Again, the marketing services are limited, the cost far over-valued, and no results come of it.
1. The name "invent" or "invention" is in their company name: This is not determinative, of course, but most of these companies have catchy names with invention or innovation in them - or innovation or some variation.2. They ask for lots of money up front: Here's the big deal. The really egregious companies charge thousands of dollars for "invention evaluation" services and also promise to obtain Patents and "market the invention to industry". The typical take is $10,000 to $20,0000 and they usually obtain worthless Design Patents or picture-claim Utility Patents.3. Their prices are amazingly flexible: Can't afford $20,000? Suddenly a package is available at $10,000 - or $5000 or even $3000.4. They can call you, you can't call them: They call you, usually in the evening. But it is hard if not impossible to call them back and reach anyone other than an answering machine or service. Where do you think this relationship is going down the road when you need to contact them?5. They send unsolicited letters or make unsolicited phone calls, send SPAM e-mail, robo-calls, or other questionable, if not illegal forms of communication: In the case of the latter, do you expect the relationship to go uphill? Spam and junk mail are annoying. Letters faked up to look like official government documents are deceptive. Just say "no" to ANYONE who tries to start a business relationship through trickery.6. They promise things on the phone verbally that are not written down in the contract: You should always read any contract you are asked to sign. If someone makes a verbal promise, ask where it is in the contract. If it ain't there, it ain't there, period. You have no one but yourself to blame for broken verbal promises.7. The contract promises to use "best efforts" to promote the invention: As noted above, such clauses are not really enforceable unless they use no efforts whatsoever. Under the law, "best efforts" means nothing. Getting out of bed in the morning could be considered "best efforts". It is not an enforceable contract, in a practical sense - unless they use no efforts whatsoever.8. They have a very slick-looking website that is actually very short on real content (lots of impressive sounding but vaguely worded paragraphs, slick graphics, etc.): Anyone can put together a website and throw in some fancy graphics. The key is to look for real content, not just generic boilerplate. Evasive language is a real tip-off. They tout success stories, but you try to find out more about them, but get no real hard data. If you can't distinguish between factand fluff (many cannot!) you will get taken in a lot in life.9. They advertise heavily on radio, TV and other media: Just because something is advertised on television does not mean that the network has investigated and vetted it. Don't fall into the trap of "it was advertised on TV, so it must be legit!" Many prestigious magazines and newspapers take ads from questionable sources. Have you seen the ads in the back of the Smithsonian for "collectibles"? It really is shameful. But it is your own fault if you can't figure out the "The Official Gov't Mint, Inc." is not part of the real U.S. Government or Mint.10. They offer a money-back guarantee: This sounds like a good deal, but in reality it is just a way of trying to get you to part with your money. Such guarantees are nearly impossible to enforce. They risk nothing by offering it, so don't fall for it. To collect on such a guarantee, you'd have to sue them. A lawyer would charge you at least several thousand dollars just to file suit. Chances are they would just fold their tent and reincorporate elsewhere. Since it is a best efforts contract, your suit would likely fail anyway. Money back guarantees mean nothing at all.