Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's wrong with invention promoters?

Dear Rich: In your books, you warn about invention promoters, yet they advertise on Nolo's website. If they're so bad, why does Nolo accept advertising from them? I'm so glad you asked. An invention promotion company is a company that charges a fee to market and protect an invention. There are a few legitimate invention promoters and a lot of unscrupulous ones. The unscrupulous ones reap millions (like LOTS of millions) from duped inventors. Imagine if these companies were duping inventors when Hiram Maxim and Philo Farnsworth were inventing. We might not have the machine gun or the television. Hmm. 
Nolo attempts to block Google ads from scam operators. Unfortunately, the attempt has a whack-a-mole quality because once a company is successfully filtered, the same company often surfaces under a new name. As noted above, the Federal Trade Commission has had similar problems chasing scam marketers. One invention marketing company settled with the government and reportedly used this settlement to their advantage, brazenly advertising they were the only invention promotion company "following government guidelines."
It's easy to avoid unscrupulous invention promoters. You can sort out the good from the bad at InventorEd and NIFC. Besides checking these sites, the USPTO offers ten warning signs (.pdf) of promotion scams. Also, Congress provided some legal controls over scam marketing companies when it enacted the "Invention Developers" law in 1999. Nolo now offers you a way to bypass invention promoters. Our online provisional patent application program enables you to achieve patent pending status in an online application and at a reasonable price. You can read more about provisionals here