What to Do If You Think You Have Been Scammed By An Invention Submission Company
What to Do If You Think You Have Been Scammed
Report it if you have been a victim. Don't just stand by. Help put them out of business. Fraud is one of the most underreported crimes. In part because people don’t know what really happened to them or who to go to for help. Some feel embarrassed because they don’t want to admit they were outsmarted. Everyone likes to think they are smarter than the average bear. But these companies are slick, sophisticated and work with high pressure. And the statistics of $300,000,000 a year show that if it happened to you, you're in "good company" because it happened to a lot of other people.
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. If you feel that you have been victim your compliant must provide the:
1. The name and address of the person making the complaint;
2. The name and address of the invention promoter/promotion firm;
3. The name of the customer of the invention promoter/promotion firm;
4. An explanation of the invention promotion services offered or performed;
5. The name of the mass media used to advertise the invention promoter's services;
6. An explanation of the relationship between the customer and the invention promotion services;
7. A signature of the complainant.
The complaint should fairly and impartially summarize the action or inaction of the 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 A complaint can be withdrawn by the complainant or named customer at any time prior to its publication. Don’t include any of your original documents for your invention with the complaint- make copies and send in the copies. See Table 6.3 for where to mail complaints and call before sending any information to make sure these addresses are still current.
Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
When checking references, check with at least 6 inventors. Note: many scam companies have set up people who are not customers, but who will lie for the company, making you think they are inventors. Get the patent numbers and names to determine if they are really who they say they are. Check to see if their product is on the market. Search on www.froogle.com or www.google.com - if it an actual product on the marketplace, it will most likely show up there.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace. Their purpose is to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Customers injured by failure to disclose the required information or by any material false or fraudulent representation by the invention promoter can bring a civil action to recover statutory damages up to $5,000 or actual damages. Damages of up to three times the amount awarded are available for intentional or willful violations. Sometimes victimized inventors end up getting some of their money back through a consent decree, although a consent decree does not constitute an admission of guilt. On one had it is good inventors who fought back got their money back, but the lack of admission of guilt muddies the waters and with a lot of hand waving, companies can make it seem it is all legitimate.
If you start to ask for the things that I have outlined in this article and the previous one and the invention submission companies give you a hard time or stops calling you, that is your sign to run the other direction. As more inventors gain this knowledge, the less likely these types of firms will be successful! Hopefully someday we can put them out of business.
Table 1 How to Get Help If You Have Been Scammed
Who to Contact About Invention Fraud Contact Information
Commissioner for Patents
Mail Stop 24
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450
Federal Trade Commission
Boston Regional Office
101 Merrimac St., Suite 810
Boston, MA 02114-4719
www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP TTY:
Your Federal Trade Commission Regional Office
Your State Attorney General at the National Inventor Fraud Center http://www.inventorfraud.com/attorneygenerals.htm
For fraudulent Patent Attorneys:
Contact U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Office of Enrollment & Discipline
Washington, D.C. 20231
Telephone: 1-703-306-4097 ext:12
Invention Submission Company Scam Watch Dog’s
The scamming of inventors is so wide spread that some individuals have taken it upon themselves to organize watch dog sites. Some examples are:
• InventorEd.org and
Ron Riley of InventorEd.org states, “Hundreds of firms are ripping inventors off. It's an epidemic.” Ron is an inventor and a self-appointed watchdog of so-called invention promotion firms. “Despite dogged efforts to inform consumers, a long list of sanctions and courtroom defeats for the firms involved — and even a new federal law passed by Congress in 1999 — the problem just keeps getting worse.” Riley says. His site has a Caution List. This list shows hundreds of companies that consumers should be wary of when attempting to market their inventions. Check these websites often and keep on inventing!
Be aware, be safe and never stop learning!
By Dr. Natalie L. Petouhoff
Dr. Natalie L. Petouhoff
, our Guest Blogger, is a blonde rocket scientist. She consults with
companies like Microsoft and Apple and is often asked to appear on TV
talk shows commenting on technology and how it makes our life easier,
better and simpler. Dr. Nat also teaches in Pepperdine's business
school, coaches inventors and is the author of the upcoming book: Smart Inventors Finish Rich: Ten Steps to Reaching the American Dream.