If you're interested in working with an invention promotion firm, here's information that can help you avoid making a costly mistake.
* Many fraudulent invention promotion firms offer inventors two services in a two-step process: one involves a research report or market evaluation of your idea that can cost you hundreds of dollars. The other involves patenting or marketing and licensing services, which can cost you several thousand dollars. Early in your discussion with a promotion firm, ask for the total cost of its services, from the "research" about your invention through the marketing and licensing. Walk away if the salesperson hesitates to answer.
* Many fraudulent companies offer to provide invention assistance or marketing services in exchange for advance fees that can range from $5,000 to $10,000. Reputable licensing agents rarely rely on large upfront fees.
* Unscrupulous invention promotion firms tell all inventors that their ideas are among the relative few that have market potential. The truth is that most ideas don't make any money.
* Many questionable invention promotion firms claim to have a great record licensing their clients' inventions successfully. Ask the firm to disclose its success rate, as well as the names and telephone numbers of their recent clients. Success rates show the number of clients who made more money from their inventions than they paid to the firm. Check the references. In several states, disclosing the success rate is the law.
* Ask an invention promotion firm for its rejection rate-the percentage of all ideas or inventions that the invention promotion firm finds unacceptable. Legitimate firms generally have high rejection rates.
* Fraudulent invention promotion firms may promise to register your idea with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Disclosure Document Program. Many scam artists charge high fees to do this. The cost of filing a disclosure document in the PTO is $10. The disclosure is accepted as evidence of the date of conception of the invention, but it doesn't offer patent protection.
* Unscrupulous firms often promise that they will exhibit your idea at tradeshows. Most invention promotion scam artists don't go to these tradeshows, much less market your idea effectively.
* Many unscrupulous firms agree in their contracts to identify manufacturers by coding your idea with the U.S. Bureau of Standard Industrial Code (SIC). Lists of manufacturers that come from classifying your idea with the SIC usually are of limited value.
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