Thursday, February 25, 2010

Show me the Money: Finding an Agent for an Invention

Dear RIch: I am an independent inventor and I am seeking an Intellectual property agent to represent me and my invention to the market. I currently have about 9 months left before I know whether the United States Patent office will grant me my patent but I feel I should not wait till the last minute to research this. My question is this, where do I find an intellectual property agent with the experience and knowledge in the field I need? My patent is for a new type of intake and exhaust valve system for the internal combustion engine.  Obtaining an agent can be as difficult as locating a licensee. Most agents are not looking for clients. They rely on word of mouth from friends or other inventors. The agents we spoke with when researching our licensing book requested that their names not be included. Why? Because they already have sufficient client listings and attract business strictly from referrals. How do you find an agent? There are five common methods: referrals from businesses, referrals from inventors, trade shows, trade magazine advertisements, and the Internet. Certain licensing publications also list licensing agents and service organizations that appraise new inventions. For example, The Licensing Journal often includes lists of technology agents. (That's a pricey journal however, and you may want to check your local law library for copies.)
Don't confuse agents with invention marketing scams. Invention marketing scams can be distinguished from legitimate agents because generally agents: are hard to find because they rarely advertise; do not give a sales pitch to inventors; will tell an inventor if the invention has flaws or risk factors; and  provide a list of satisfied clients. In other words, a real agent is realistic about your invention and is usually willing to take a risk for a percentage of the profits. Some qualified agents may offer to evaluate your product. The evaluations performed by legitimate reps usually cost several hundred dollars and result in a critique that is particular to your invention and the appropriate industry. Although scam marketers may seek a percentage of profits, they actually make their money by exorbitant up-front fees that are unrelated to any service that they perform. As a general rule, a person or company that demands more than $1,000 in up-front fees and will not furnish you with a list of clients is probably a scam marketing venture. If in doubt about the legitimacy of a company, check or the National inventor Fraud Center which includes a list of suspected companies, as well as helpful links--for example, to the Federal Trade Commission.