COMPLAINT REGARDING INVENTION PROMOTER
DATE OF CORRESPONDENCE: September 1, 2011
Name of the Invention Promotion Company: Absolutely New, Inc.
Invention Promoter's Address: 650 Townsend St., Suite 475, San Francisco, CA 94103
Complainant's Name: Stephen M. Brown
Complainant's Address: 10061 Riverside Dr., # 101, Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Customer's Name: Stephen M. Brown
WHAT IS YOUR COMPLAINT?
Name of mass media invention promoter advertised in: Unsolicited mass mailings.
Invention promotion service offered to be performed: Prepare a marketing research document, prepare a marketing package, represent invention at trade shows, personally contact potential acquirers in attempt to obtain a sale, or licensing agreement.
Explanation of complaint between customer and invention promoter: .
After receiving several letters over a two year period I decided to contact Absolutely New to inquire about their services. I had extensive discussions with XXX about his company, and was emailed a contract to consider on February 8, 2011. The reason I decided to hire this company was because of their promise to represent my products at trade shows around the country and to present them to manufacturers for a possible licensing deal. Specifically I was assured that if I enlisted their services right away they would be able to include my products in their booth at the Chicago House Wares Show on March 7th-12th. I was told that this was the most important show of the year for my type of products which are designer beddings for children: www.pantplanet.com
When I made my decision to hire Absolutely New I was asked by XXX to sign the signature page of the contract he had emailed me and fax it to him, which I did. The following week I took a trip to San Francisco to see the company in person and deliver a check. XXX introduced me to XXX. She was the project coordinator that would be handling my products. I was again assured by XXX that she personally would be taking my products to the Chicago trade show in a couple of weeks. She said she would not have time to prepare my marketing materials for the show but would use the samples and brochures that I provided to her. Before I left, XXX gave me two more copies of the signature page to sign so that we both would have an original copy. A few days later I received the hard copy of the contract in the U.S. mail which I put in a file.
The Monday following the Chicago show I left XXX a voice mail asking how the show went. She sent me an email saying that the show went well and that she had spoken to several companies about my products and that they were intrigued. She said that she told them she would be following up with them in the next few weeks once she had finished my marketing materials. It was during the preparing of these marketing materials that the problems began. XXX sent me a draft of the "concept sheet" that looked like it was prepared by a third grader. I know photoshop so I fixed it myself and sent it back. I was then told that this "one page concept sheet" was in fact going to be the entire "marketing package". I decided to look at the contract that I had been sent via U.S. mail to see if XXX was giving me the "marketing package" as promised in the agreement. The contract said that Absolutely New would prepare a "marketing package" that would include a "one page full-color product concept sheet" as well as any other photographs, designs, and illustrations that ANI deems to enhance the marketability of the invention. This clearly implies the "package" would be more than just the "one page concept sheet". The details of my bedding designs are numerous, and additional photographs and illustrations would have most definitely enhanced the marketability. It was at this time I discovered that a paragraph had been added to this hard copy of the contract I received in the U.S. mail that was not part of the original contract XXX had sent me by email. The added paragraph had information describing the company's track record. When I saw this information I grew even more concerned because the track record was not what I considered impressive and was in direct contrast to the representations XXX had made during our initial phone calls before signing the contract. Despite my growing concerns, which I voiced to both XXX and XXX, I decided to give XXX a chance to send out this so called "marketing package" to prospective manufacturers. She tried to assure me she knew what she was doing and that "I had to let go of my baby and trust her".
Five weeks later, now into the first week of May, I sent her an email requesting an update. I was supposed to have received a quarterly report by now but had not. I was curious to see how her follow up went with the companies she said had expressed interest at the Chicago Show as well as any progress with other potential manufactures. In response XXX sent me a Quarterly Report for March. In the report she had listed four manufacturers that she had attempted to contact regarding my products. According to the report, only one out of the four companies had even received my so-called marketing materials. There was no mention in the report of any follow up with the companies she claimed had expressed interest at the Chicago Trade Show. When I spoke to her over the phone about the report she told me that those companies from the Chicago Show had passed on my products. When I pressed her for the details and asked why this information was not included in the March Report she was evasive and I felt she was lying. She even hung up on me twice. This was the last straw. I told her to stop all her efforts, which wasn't much anyway, until I got some answers.
I decided to call the people that ran the Chicago Show and discovered that XXX had never attended the trade show. A badge bad been reserved in her name but was never paid for or picked up. I also did some research and discovered that the paragraph which had been added to my contract by XXX was a disclosure required by California statutes as well as the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999. According to the California Business & Professions Code § 22379 & 22381 as well as 35 U.S.C. § 297(a) this information was supposed to be disclosed to me in writing upon first oral communication, as well as written in the contract.
After being ignored for two weeks by XXX and XXX, in my attempt to resolve these problems, I finally requested in writing to see all records and correspondences regarding the efforts made to market my products. According to my contract all this information was supposed to be made available to me within 7 days of written notice. This clause was never honored despite my repeated request to see the documents.
I was finally was put in contact with XXX, the general council for Absolutely New. He looked into the contract issue regarding XXXactions. He confirmed that XXX had purposely tampered with the contract by deleting the paragraph with the required disclosures from the original emailed to me, and then attempted to sneak it back into the hard copy that was sent to me by U.S. mail. He told me that XXX was a rogue employee and that he had been fired. With regards to XXX and the Chicago trade show, I was told by XXX the CEO that XXX claimed she never told me she was going to Chicago. He said I'm sorry but this is a He said She said situation even after I presented him with a copy of her email that she sent me upon her supposed return from Chicago. The last day of the show was Saturday March 12th. The following is an excerpt from the email that was sent to me by XXX on Tuesday March 15th in response to a phone message I left for her on Monday March 14th, in which I asked how her trip to Chicago went:
"The Chicago show went well; the companies were open to looking at products and new products for next season. When I spoke to companies about your product they were intrigued, and I told them I would follow up in the next few weeks once the concept sheet is complete. Once the concept sheet is complete, I will begin marketing."
I have other emails on the subject that I did not present to Absolutely New that suggest that she was not being truthful. After my phone call with her in which we discussed the March Quarterly Report, I sent her several emails requesting to see details of her correspondence with the companies from the Chicago Show she claimed to have spoken to. I wanted the names of personnel she had spoken to, times and dates, and copies of emails, rejection letters etc. etc. from these companies. In her email responses she never once said I did not go to Chicago, only that she would give me this information on my next quarterly report. It was only after I told them that I had contacted the people in Chicago and knew she was not there that she began denying that she had never told me she was going in the first place. It is my belief that XXX was covering for her because she was directed by her superiors to mislead me. Why would she lie to me on her own accord about attendance at a trade show? I had requested in writing to see proof of the correspondence with the companies she claimed to have spoken to about my products while in Chicago. If she were being truthful she must have had emails to back up these claims. Nothing was ever provided. I believe because they did not exist.
XXX and XXX then gave me the choice of a full refund of the fee that I had paid or the opportunity to enter into a new marketing agreement. They told me that their retail division had a serious interest in my products from Bed Bath & Beyond and that Absolutely New would want to discuss a licensing agreement if the interest solidified into a purchase order.
At this point I did not know what to believe. Absolutely New was asking me to forgive the apparent fraud by XXX, XXX was now calling me a liar, XXX appeared to be covering for her, my written request was not being honored, and now Bed Bath & Beyond was supposedly interested in my products. I told XXX that I had lost all trust in Absolutely New and in order to make a decision on as to how I would proceed that I would have to verify all statements from him and the CEO XXX. I requested proof of XXX termination, proof of the interest from Bed Bath & Beyond, and again proof that XXX had done the work she claimed to have done in her March Report. The only document I got from them was regarding XXX. They refused to give me the other documents I requested unless I agreed to enter a new contract. I was entitled to that information per the current contract. Why would I have to enter a new contract to get it? I was requesting it in order to give Absolutely New the opportunity to regain my trust, and to verify if they were telling the truth about anything.
After getting nowhere for several weeks, I sent them a letter demanding to be made whole by reimbursing me for all monies that I had spent as a result of my association with their company. I wanted reimbursement of the $20,630.00 fee plus interest, all samples I had given them, attorney's fees I had incurred, and travel expenses. I also requested compensation for 6 months of lost time. In all I was asking for $36,761.00.
Absolutely New sent me a check for much less than I was asking for along with a letter full of mis characterizations of the circumstances that were frankly, insulting and not true. I sent them back a letter saying such, and that my demand for damages stands.
Over the next couple of weeks I discovered that Absolutely New had just lost a patent infringement suit and were currently involved in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The details of these cases are shocking and can be viewed by all by going to the following links on the internet. New Angle Pet Products Inc. vs Absolutely New Inc.; http://www.rfc.express.com/lawsuits/patent-lawsuits/new-york-eastern-dis.... Invent World Wide Consulting LLC vs. Absolutely New Inc. http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuits/trademark-lawsuits/illinois-northern-.... I also discovered that they were on a suspended status with the California Secretary of State since May 2nd and were not maintaining a Surety Bond as required by California law. This information is all available over the internet. When I found out all of this information I decided that I should go ahead and cash the check that they had sent, even though I had rock solid evidence of fraud and many counts of breach of contract that I could have used to win a lawsuit. A judgment from a lawsuit will do you no good if a company is insolvent or is not maintaining the required Surety Bond to collect against.
It has also come to my attention that Absolutely New was a sister company with Inventors Publishing & Research. IP&R has had numerous complaints with the USPTO. XXX, XXX and CEO XXX all worked for IP&R. It is my opinion and experience that Absolutely New Inc. can not be trusted and I would recommend everyone to stay away. My phone number is 818-445-1746 and I will accept calls from anyone who has questions about the details of my experience with Absolutely New.
Signed: /s/ Stephen M. Brown Date: September 1st, 2011
XXX - indicate names that have been redacted by the USPTO