COMPLAINT REGARDING INVENTION PROMOTER
DATE OF CORRESPONDENCE: March 8, 2012
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: Judy A. Blecha
Complainant's Address: 4008 Soapstone Lane, Gainesville, GA 30506
Customer's Name: Judy A. Blecha
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: This complaint concerns my paying an enormous amount of money to Absolutely New Inc. (San Francisco, CA) to promote my patented bandana hats (U.S. Patent #7836522 - Bandana Headwear With Flexible Headband, Having Options of Reversibility, Attachable Visor, Attached Cap And 3-Way Visor; - Registered name: Bandana Hat (R) ) and their many violations and unethical behavior. First, in our initial conversation, I wasn't made aware that I was to be sent the necessary disclosures as required by Federal Statue 35 U.S.C. section 297 of the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA) of 1999. They further violated CALIFORNIA CODES, SECTIONS 22379 (n) - 22380 - 22381 - 22383 - 22384 - 22386 & 22388 as spelled out at the website: NATIONAL INVENTOR FRAUD CENTER. Also, there is no actual proof that my patent was marketed as is specified in their contract. Any one of these violations would render my contract null & void. I was contacted by this company 3 times (between December 2, 2010 to January 27, 2011), offering their services before I called them after receiving the last letter in late Jan., 2011. I was curious to learn what they could do for my invention and the fee, if any (fees are required in all advertising as per Cal Code #22380, I later learned, but was not included in any that I was sent). I spoke with XXX, letting him know my husband and I were very skeptical about spending so much of our savings when so few patents ever get licensed. XXX assured me there were other ways, such as distribution, to market my patent, if licensing was not an option. This statement of his, (1) plus reading online that XXX, President of UIA at the time, and with who I'd been contact 5 years previous, endorsed Absolutely New, Inc. (2) were the tow reason I decided to sign an agreement with them. Using money from our savings as payment in the amount of $14,920.00, I reluctantly signed a contract in early Feb., 2011.
The main reason for my reluctance was that I'd asked XXX some very pertinent questions (in emails) which he chose not to answer, most likely because he didn't want his answers in writing. More recently, I realized as written above, that he'd not told me in our first conversation that he'd be sending me a disclosure required by California Law as well as the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999. According to California Business and Professions Code § 22379(d) & 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.
It was included in the contract, but not pointed out orally, as required by law, that this disclosure would be sent to me. Due to this omission, I'd not paid as much attention to that disclosure as I would have otherwise. Also, when the contract was sent to me in an email, it opened right at the beginning of the contract & the disclosure (above it) was invisible to me. Much later, after I'd already signed the contract, I noticed that I had to scroll up (before beginning of contract) to see the disclosure I'd not been told about in any of our conversations.
I've been very disappointed with the services (or lack of) that Absolutely New Inc. (hereafter know as ANI for brevity) performed on my behalf over the last year. Many services have not been fulfilled as specified in the contract. For instance they were to show the patented hats at trade shows that were a good match for my product, and they never did this even though there were several that were a perfect fit. I worked with XXX during first 6 months and she left many of my questions sent by email, go unanswered (IE - why wasn't my hats presented at trade shows and why wasn't she promoting to sporting goods manufacturers or those who made hats for those with hair loss). One of the questions she did answer, although falsely, was when I asked what marketed, although I'd not be sent quarterly reports. I later learned from the person, who took her place, this was not the case. Because of complaints from others like me, position, Robert Lugar was in charge of my account. When I mentioned to him, that though I'd suggested it in emails and on the phone, they'd never promoted my larger style, with an attached knit cap, (for which the patent was awarded). These larger hats are perfect for men who work or play outdoors; who need more head coverage from the elements and just as perfect for those with hair loss. I even sent him a list of companies who made hats for cancer patients as well as an impressive-looking marketing flyer for them. He later told me in an email that if I wanted more promotion, I'd need to sign another contract. I wrote back that this was a highly unethical solution as all the hat styles were presented to ANI when the agreement was signed. Amazingly, ANI new saw the potential of so many styles being an incredible selling point as the company would gain all these styles being an incredible selling point as the company would gain all these styles with one contract. In addition, my having had the name, Bandana Hat registered was an enormous plus!
ANI just uses a one-page marketing sheet and all the styles couldn't be shown on this one page. They had to keep things 'simple', I was told in the beginning when I wasn't impressed with this on-page PR package. In their quarterly reports, they would list the companies with who they'd presumably been in contact and their responses, which were very vague, brief and there were no specifics, such as dates and conclusive evidence of follow-up pursuits. Also, there was no follow through to some companies who seemed interested. The following quarterly report never showed that these companies had been contacted again. When I asked about this in an email, I didn't get a response. In December, 2011, I wrote and asked XXX to send me specifics of communications he and XXX had with the companies to who they had corresponded. Having spent nearly $15,000, and getting an inferior marketing package and service from ANI, my questions going unanswered and especially with their violations, I knew something must be done. Around the time of that email, I'd let him know many of my grievances although I'd not mentioned the AIPA and statues of California Law being violated, except for the one where they had 7 days from receipt of my request of all records, in which to respond. I had no response to this email sent on December 2, 2011.
On February 14, 2012, I wrote to ANI's Attorney, XXX, requesting that all records and correspondence relating to services rendered from February, 2011 to Feb., 2012, (when they claimed to have contacted a few more companies). I expected that copies of letters and emails that supported this effort as well as dates & content of all phone messages would be sent soon thereafter. As written above, California business and professions code section 22379 (n) states they have 7 days after receipt of such letter to make this vital information available to me. This was sent three weeks ago and I've not heard anything, making this complaint further inevitable.
I have all original documents & emails to back up my complaint. ANI will no doubt have a rebuttal that they sent my marketing package to some companies after the 6th month term (which isn't nearly long enough to promote an invention!); however I can't be sure of this, since they refuse to send the details of this promotion as per my request. Had I not been told there was a good chance I would get a distribution deal, if licensing was not an option, I surely would not have signed an agreement with ANI. Perhaps I should have been on the phone with them every day until I got the answers I needed. I'm a very busy person though and didn't have the time or patience to do this. Also, an honest company who has their client's best interests in mind, would not deny them answers to their questions. Because of the many benefits, uniqueness and attractiveness of my patent, I had faith that eventually a company would have the foresight to see the potential market for the various styles. When I attended a QVC meet in Chicago (contest to find 8 new inventions) sponsored by XXX several years ago, two of their reps said the hats were perfect for QVC. I realized I wasn't in the position to purchase multiple thousands myself. Besides, it was always my goal to have my patented hats distributed and/or licensed. I wear one most every time I leave the house and get many compliments from both men and women. There is definitely a market for these unique hats with so many benefits.
A compliant has been filed with the BBB in San Francisco, CA, in which I'm requesting the amount I spent ($14,920.00) plus return of all materials and products I'd sent them. Being very upset when I wrote the complaint to the BBB, I made a few errors (concerning some of the CAL codes, etc.) and sent the BBB an amendment the following day to rectify said errors. The same letter was sent to the FTC; however there was no way to update the Codes online. I have in my files a letter to them (FTC) with the amendments noted in case this is later needed. In conclusion I would never recommend Absolutely New, Inc. to any inventor.
Signed: /s/Judy A. Blecha Date: March 8, 2012