It is tough to sit across the desk from someone and tell them that I think someone took advantage of them, especially when that money could have been better used to help them with prototyping or other steps in their business plan. When I have spoken with people who have used inventor assistance outfits, it appeared they spent a lot of money and received little value in return. In one situation, an inventor and his/her associates paid about $20,000 to an inventor assistance outfit. From what I could tell, they were delivered the following:
- the filing receipt for a submitted provisional application (they did not have the actual submitted application).
- the filing receipt for a later filed nonprovisional application (they did not have the actual submitted application).
- a five to ten page marketing presentation for their product with illustrations, advantages of the product, and other information.
- about 200 addresses for companies that might be interested in purchasing the product (the addresses were general and not directed to a specific person at the company).
For argument, let’s assume a value of $5000 – $10,000 for the preparation and filing of the patent applications, which may or may not be fair given the product at issue. That leaves a range of $10,000 to $15,000 for the remainder of the deliverables. That value for those deliverables seems very questionable. Moreover, the inventor assistance company was still marketing further “services” to the inventor and associates (for additional fees or royalties, of course).
Make no mistake, the invention and entrepreneurial process can be difficult, expense, and time-consuming. Furthermore, it is rare that an individual will possess all of the skills, time, and money necessary for the complete invention and commercialization process. Thus it is tempting to fall prey to an outfit that markets “one stop shopping” support and relief to the time and stress involved in the process.
I am not sure why such low value was delivered, as the above $10,000 – $15,000 is enough to deliver higher value deliverables and still have a good profit margin. Nonetheless, the situation is fairly typical of what I have seen from inventor assistance companies. For this reason, I suggest talking to other inventors, business counselors, intellectual property attorneys, business attorneys, or others to seek professionals to help you in your invention and entrepreneurial process.