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2014. 01

 The Inventor's Mentor

January 2014

Avoiding Scams from Invention Promotion Companies

Inventors are idealists. This very idealism can leave some of them vulnerable to unethical and greedy promotional companies. How can you avoid these scam artists? The US Patent Office has published a list of complaints about some of the best known promotional firms here. In addition, the USPTO has listed 10 scam warning signs. These are listed below with my comments beneath each one:        

1) Slick ads on radio, TV and magazines. Advertising is expensive and promotional companies pass these costs on to the client. If you want an inexpensive service do not get hooked. The best way to find a reputable firm is by word of mouth recommendation. Join your local inventor’s group to learn more about promotional companies.       

2) Salespersons want money right away ...up-front. A promotional company sincerely convinced that your idea has merit should not need further convincing by an upfront payment. 

3) Refusal to respond to your questions in writing signed by a company official. Legitimate companies should not be reluctant to provide responses to your questions in writing.              

4) You are told to describe your idea in writing, mail it to yourself and don’t open the envelope. This advice is worthless. Such sealed envelopes are not recognized in Court. It is easy for someone to steam-open the envelope and to change the content.               

5) You are promised a patent search but no patentability opinion by a patent attorney/agent. A patentability opinion is never black and white. The prior art uncovered by a search is rarely exactly the same as the invention. Ideally, the patentability of an invention should be determined jointly by the inventor and the professional. The inventor has the technical knowledge; the attorney has the legal knowledge. They should both analyze the invention in view of the prior art to determine if it is patentable. A patentability opinion given to you without probing questions about your invention is suspect.                

6) You are guaranteed to get a patent or your money back. The outcome of an examination at the patent office just as in a court of law is never certain. No one can guarantee that your patent will be awarded.        

7) You are advised to apply for a design patent. This type of patent is much easier to obtain than a utility patent but offers limited protection. If your invention provides utility, usefulness or performs a function, you should be filing a utility patent.

8) The promotion company is only offering provisional patent application to their clients. This indicates that they do not have the expertise to write a full fledge patent application. 

9) You can’t reach salespeople or company officials without leaving many messages. If the company is short staffed, it does not need your business, and you don’t need its services. Stay away from it.           

10)   You are told that your idea is a "sure-fire" hit! For the invention to be a business success two requirements must be fulfilled. 1) It must sell well on the marketplace. 2) It must be protected by a patent to discourage competitors. The outcome at the patent office, as in Court, is never certain. Without a patent, the product could be a sure fire hit on the marketplace but you have no legal protection for your idea.   

11)   Refusal to provide client references or copies of forms and agreements for your review. Patent attorneys and patent agents may be reluctant to provide references because of confidentiality issues, however promotion company with many success stories in the marketplace should have no qualms giving you examples of its previous achievements.   

The best promoter is often the inventor himself. If you have the time and inclination, bypass the promoter middleman and approach the distributors directly.


One final world of advice. Rely on word of mouth. Go to meetings held in your city by local inventor’s groups and ask for advice from your colleague inventors.


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If you have any question you can contact me at (858)259-2226 or email me at             
        This newsletter should not be construed as being legal advice.                                                               ©2014 by George Levy