While the USPTO does not investigate complaints or participate in any legal proceedings against invention promoters/promotion firms, under the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 , the USPTO will provide a public forum for the publication of complaints concerning invention promoters/promotion firms. Also, in the forum, the USPTO will publish responses to the complaints from the invention promoters/promotion firms.
The USPTO will accept complaints filed against invention promoters/promotion firms and forward these complaints to the invention promoters/promotion firms for response. As mentioned above, both the complaints and the responses will be published in the public forum so that they will be publicly available. The USPTO does not accept complaints submitted under this system if the complainant requests confidentiality.
Invention promoters or promotion firms
Visit the Federal Trade Commission website to see if a company has been investigated or fined by the FTC and type in the word "invention." For important information about invention promotion firms, please visit the following:
- American Institute of Research and Development Inc.
- FTC v. World Patent Marketing, Desa Industries
- FTC v. Eureka Solutions
- FTC v. Davison & Associates, Inc
- FTC v. National Invention Services, Inc
- New Jersey Promotion Firm Settles FTC Charges
- FTC Targets Invention Promotion
Always check the reputation of invention promoters/promotions firms before making any commitments. Remember, not all invention promoters/promotion firms are legitimate. It's best to be wary of any firm that promises too much and/or costs too much. Visit the USPTO fee schedule to get an idea of basic patent filing costs.
If you are thinking about using one of these firms, ask for references from their current clients and check the firm's reputation by:
- Looking for complaints listed on this website
- Consulting the Better Business Bureau
- Consulting the Chambers of Commerce in your area
Helpful information from the Federal Trade Commission
Reviewing the FTC’s Business Blog. The FTC’s blogs have a total of 421,000 daily subscribers. Posts about invention promotion cases or scams invoking the USPTO usually close with consumer protection tips:
- Business Blog: How an “invention promotion” outfit demoted the truth (September 13, 2017)
- Business Blog: Is the USPTO really contacting your company? Maybe not (July 10, 2017)
- Consumer Blog: Scammers can be inventive (July 10, 2017)
- Consumer Blog: Some invention-promotion firms do nothing for you (March 14, 2017)
- Business Blog: FTC alleges company’s practices are “patently” deceptive (March 14, 2017)
- Business Blog: Patent (s)pending (September 26, 2011)
Information is also available for Spanish speakers on the FTC website.
If you have hired a patent attorney or agent, ask them about the invention promoter or promotion firm. You can also ask others who may know them. You may wish to refer to the following sites to learn more about fraudulent invention promoters/promotion firms.
Consumer Protection : The FTC also provides other services and information at their site about business venture and investment frauds.
Required information disclosure from invention promoters or promotion firms
If you decide to use the services of an invention promoter/promotion firm, keep in mind that the firm must disclose specific information to you regarding their past business practices. This disclosure is required by law and is intended to help you make an informed decision whether or not the firm will meet your needs.
Specifically, before an invention promotion contract can be established between you and the firm, each invention promotion firm must disclose to you in writing each of the following items of information:
The total number of inventions evaluated by the invention promoter for commercial potential in the past five years, as well as the number of those inventions that received positive evaluations, and the number of those inventions that received negative evaluations
In other words, how much experience does the promoter have? What is their track record? Do they generally give mostly positive or negative evaluations, or is there a balance between their positive and negative evaluation history?
The total number of customers who have contracted with the invention promoter in the past five years, not including customers who have purchased trade show services, research, advertising, or other non-marketing services from the invention promoter, or who have defaulted in their payment to the invention promoter
This information will give you an idea of just how experienced the promoter or firm is and the volume of services they provide.
The total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received a net financial profit as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter
What financial impact, if any, has the promoter or firm actually made to its customers?
The total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received license agreements for their inventions as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter
Like item three above, this information will also enable you to gauge the effectiveness of the firm in evaluating its direct impact on its customers. Note the key words in the last two requirements--"as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter". Be aware that just because a license agreement was eventually secured for a given invention does not necessarily mean that it was a "direct result" of the promotion activities of the firm.
The names and addresses of all previous invention promotion companies with which the invention promoter or its officers have collectively or individually been affiliated in the previous 10 years
This information will help you to know the history of the promoter or firm, even if the promoter changes firms or the firm changes its name.
Registering a complaint against an invention promoter
While the USPTO does not investigate complaints or participate in any legal proceedings against invention promoters/promotion firms, the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 does provide that the USPTO will:
- accept complaints filed against invention promoters/promotion firms;
- forward these complaints to the invention promoters/promotion firms for response; and
- make the complaints and responses publicly available.
Both the complaints and the responses will be published on this Web site so that they will be publicly available. However, the USPTO does not accept complaints submitted under this system if the complainant requests confidentiality.
In order for the USPTO to identify a submission as a complaint under the American Inventors Protection Act, the complaint must be clearly marked or otherwise indicate that it is a complaint filed under the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999. The USPTO has a complaint form ; however, use of this form is not mandatory. General letters of complaint sent to the USPTO will not be treated under this complaint publication program.
Minimum requirements for a complaint
At a minimum, a complaint filed under the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 must provide the following:
- The name and address of the person making the complaint;
- The name and address of the invention promoter/promotion firm;
- The name of the customer of the invention promoter/promotion firm;
- An explanation of the invention promotion services offered or performed;
- The name of the mass media used to advertise the invention promoter's services;
- An explanation of the relationship between the customer and the invention promotion services;
- A signature of the complainant.
The complaint should fairly and impartially summarize the action or inaction of the invention promoter/promotion firm that is the basis of the complaint. The purpose of the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 is to provide complainants with a forum for publicly making a complaint against an invention promoter/promotion firm.
Submissions that do not provide the requested information will be returned. If a complainant's address is not provided, the submission will be destroyed. A complaint can be withdrawn by the complainant or named customer at any time prior to its publication. No originals of documents should be included with the complaint. Complaints should be mailed to the following address:
Mail Stop 24
Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450