Determining whether your invention will be successful or not is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Here are three reasons inventors are outsourcing the review process to increase efficiency.
When entrepreneurs and companies invent new products or technologies, they are understandably reticent to share their ideas with outsiders. After all, the business landscape is cut throat. They do not want to risk giving away their competitive edge. Still, most entrepreneurs are aware they need some feedback to ensure that their ideas are viable. They may form an internal review team to analyze their prototypes and conduct a market analysis.
While this choice may seem logical, internal invention reviews can be a waste of time and money. External reviews are a smarter choice. For instance, consider independent taste testers, who food companies outsource sensory testing of their products to in order to capture a broad and objective range of preferences. Beware of in-house reviewers, who are often incapable of delivering the objective analysis and insights you need to make sure your product does not fail.
We will come back to the point about internal reviews inherently being nonobjective. There are additional reasons to outsource the invention review process. For starters, internal reviews can require significant time and money. Since the team members tasked with the review are employees, they may have to balance this assignment with their other responsibilities.
Generally speaking, internal reviews can take up to 30 hours at minimum, although they can take up to 30 days at larger companies. If you are paying employees over $75,000 per year (and, in the case of an attorney, far more) and you assign several people to the task, you are looking at thousands of hours and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct your internal reviews, when they could be working on developing the top ideas and technologies instead. Be aware of where you’re spening money, as very little of your review expenses should be on the front end.
In addition, internal reviewers are not necessarily trained to conduct these types of analyses. A quality product study includes thorough research into your market, competitors and patent prospects. Someone who is not trained to vet ideas for commercial potential will not be able to generate the level of insights and recommendations you need to screen a technology. By comparison, external teams specialize in product analyses.
Privacy can be a concern when inviting outsiders to review your ideas. However, a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality clause can prohibit external reviewers from revealing any sensitive and proprietary information. There are both legal and business incentives to adhere to these guidelines as the reviewers want to build a reputable business and are not in the business of stealing ideas for themselves. If the right safeguards are in place, you can trust that the review process will not expose your business’s important competitive information.
Here are three ways in which an outside review is more advantageous than an internal report.
Unlike your team members, review agencies focus solely on compiling invention reports. They can turn around an analysis much faster than your internal staff, and it will include a SWOT analysis, competitive research and intellectual property (IP) research – all the information you need to decide whether to move forward.
While some consultants charge high rates, many third-party vendors offer fast and affordable services. Instead of paying salaried employees to produce a lackluster review, you can secure a top-quality analysis at a fraction of the cost, freeing up your employees to concentrate on the development of your best ideas and IP assets.
I promised we would come back to this and saved it for last because I cannot stress it enough. When it comes to evaluating your commercial prospects, objectivity is everything. You need input from professionals who have no stake in the product’s performance. A third-party team is solely concerned with getting you informed answers and giving them to you with no pretense. Their jobs and egos do not depend on your product’s success. Those are the people you want reviewing your invention because then you will have solid feedback and perhaps fresh insight into whether your idea can be successful.
The worst thing you can do for your company is go to market blindly or with misinformation. Sourcing high-quality evaluations from professional invention reviewers will provide you with the necessary knowledge to help your company succeed. Whatever the reports contain, it will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions and develop ideas the world really needs and wants.
Biomedical engineer Melanie Watson had plenty to grapple with when prenatal tests during her second trimester revealed her daughter, the second-born of two, had a very serious genetic condition called trisomy 18. In this condition, instead of normal two chromosomes on the 18th chromosomal pair, there are three.
Half of all babies born with trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome, die within the first week, with many others stillborn. Only 5 percent to 10 percent live beyond age 1.
“She is my miracle baby,” Watson said of Claire Juliette Watson-Ray, now 5½. It’s important to get the one-half in there “because every day counts,” said the Trine University assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who earned her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from Louisiana Tech.
Watson has fought every day for her fragile daughter’s life, not accepting the no-hope pronouncement given by doctors at the Texas hospital where Claire was born and not giving up when Claire, at age 14 months, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
That tenacity and resolve to give Claire the highest quality of life possible is what also led Watson on a journey to seek an innovative solution to quickly and easily perform routine blood tests so Claire — and anyone with a health condition that requires frequent blood testing – can do so wherever and whenever they want, with results sent via a cell phone to the doctor.
The eighth version of the hand-held, blood-testing device prototype is now being 3-D printed, and Watson is in the process of patenting the invention. It is the culmination of more than five years of research and development, and Watson’s entrepreneurial endeavors through her company Blaire Biomedical have drawn high praise from regional and state funders. She was recently named one of two first awardees of support through Indiana’s Elevate Ventures’ new Community Ideation Fund.
The fund, created in 2018, enables ideation-stage high-potential companies to move closer to a specific, measurable technology or product development milestones through an investment between $5,000 and $20,000. Eligible applicants include Indiana-based companies with headquarters in communities under a partnership with Elevate Ventures, and with no more than $50,000 in trailing revenue over the past 12-month period.
Elevate Ventures, a venture development organization based in Indianapolis, Ind., provides entrepreneurs with the expertise and resources needed to transform ideas into profit-making companies. The Community Ideation Fund $17,500 convertible note will help Watson move ahead with final development of the blood-testing device by hiring a part-time design engineer.
“We need to improve the optics (in the device) in order to increase the accuracy of blood tests,” Watson said, noting this funding and a recent $1,000 micro-grant from the Elevate Northeast Indiana Farnsworth Fund, plus additional funding she is seeking through other regional and state sources is crucial. “It is essential for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to get into the seed round to draw venture capitalists and angel investors.”
Already available is a hand-held blood glucose testing device that operates similarly through a phone app, but Watson said there is no other such device on the market that can perform multiple blood tests.
“There has to be a better way” To read the rest of the story click:
Action News Investigates has learned a lawsuit accuses a Pittsburgh-based invention promotion company of running a deceptive and fraudulent scam.
The class-action lawsuit says InventHelp and its affiliates took millions of dollars from inventors, who got virtually nothing in return. The company disputes the allegations.
Court records show InventHelp has convinced thousands of people to part with thousands of dollars to market their inventions. But the lawsuit says only a handful of inventors have made money.
After she saw an InventHelp ad featuring a caveman, Sherry Porter contacted the company about her idea.
“It was a pet collar with an LED light that went all the way around,” Porter said.
When Porter met with an InventHelp official at their office in Rochester, New York, she says the response was enthusiastic.
“She told me that it was a great idea. She said to me this invention could go as far as bigger animals, cows, horses, and she said possibly even to children,” Porter said.
Porter said she was skeptical.
But according to a class-action lawsuit filed in New York, InventHelp eventually convinced her to pay $700 and then another $9,000 to market her invention.
The lawsuit says InventHelp promised to send Porter’s invention to numerous companies. But when she followed up with those companies, she said, “they would write back and say they had already seen this product, that it had been on the market for years.”
She also got a book describing her invention.
“What Sherry received for that $10,000 was a hard-bound book very generally describing her invention that probably a third-grader could have put together,” said her attorney, Julie Plitt.
Earlier this year, the lawsuit says, an official at InventHelp’s Pittsburgh headquarters contacted Porter and said a company based in New York City called Abrams Gentile Entertainment was interested in licensing her invention.
But when investigators for Sherry’s attorney went to the office of Abrams Gentile, they found it vacant — nothing but empty boxes. The company’s name not even listed.
“As it turned out this company didn’t exist. The name of the company on the contract occupied vacant New York City space and to date that company hasn’t even answered the complaint,” Plitt said.
Porter did eventually receive a $500 check from another company affiliated with InventHelp.
“We believe that this $500 was a ruse in order to suck her into spending even more money with InventHelp,” Plitt said.
In their complaint, Porter and two other inventors accuse InventHelp and affiliated companies of running a “deceptive and fraudulent invention promotion scam that has bilked thousands of aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs into paying millions of dollars to Defendants for invention promotion services that Defendants do not and never intend to provide.”
When Action News Investigates called InventHelp’s PR office for comment, the voicemail was full. An email to the PR office bounced back as undeliverable.
Eventually, company spokesperson Lark Blasi responded, calling the lawsuit allegations “empty and frivolous” and saying, “We very much stand by our efforts on behalf of all of our clients, are pleased that a third party has shown interest in this individual’s idea, and are puzzled by the various inaccuracies in the amended complaint.”
In a letter to the court, InventHelp says it plans to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
On its website, InventHelp says from 2015 to 2017 it signed submission agreements with 6,564 clients. But it says just 166 clients have gotten license agreements for their products, and only 49 clients — less than 1 percent — received more money than they paid InventHelp.
“In fact, all these people got was a large debt and dashed dreams,” Plitt said.
“I don’t take throwing money away lightly and that’s exactly how I feel, that I just threw that money right out the window,” Porter said.
In addition to the case filed by Porter in New York, a lawsuit making similar claims about InventHelp has been filed in Philadelphia. The company said it has not yet had a chance to review the allegations in the Philadelphia case.
When a company copied their invention, Natasha and Fred Ruckel began investigating — and got an inside look into how products are ripped off.
On Valentine’s Day in 2015, Natasha Ruckel and her husband, Fred, were sitting in their living room in Gilboa, N.Y. Natasha was improvising on the piano, and Fred was listening while messing around with the couple’s cat, Yoda. Fred noticed a ripple in the living room rug, forming a half circle on one side. Again and again he tossed toys into the ripple and a delighted Yoda darted in and out. Natasha looked up from her playing. “That’s when we came up with the idea for the Ripple Rug,” she says.
The Ruckels, who had spent around 25 years earning their living in marketing and advertising for brands from PepsiCo to ESPN to Hasbro, were already in the midst of creating their first venture: an app that provided a way for amateur photographers to monetize online images. But they both agreed that the Ripple Rug was a better bet.
A couple of days later, Fred went to Home Depot and bought some cheap pieces of carpet, and they got to work on a prototype. When they had that, they launched a Kickstartercampaign in May 2015, pricing the American-made product at $39.95, to test the market. Within 30 days, they received $15,000 in backing. They had the products made in Georgia for $15 each, and filled the orders.
The Ruckels were weighing their next step when, that fall, the opportunity of a lifetime hit. QVC, in conjunction with the Today show, hosted an ongoing competition called the “Next Big Thing” for entrepreneurs with new retail products. Participants presented their offerings on the TV program, and the winning products received an order from QVC.
Following an arduous vetting process — including proof of a multimillion-dollar insurance policy, a guarantee of having 1,500 items available for sale and sample videos of the Ruckels in pitch mode — Ripple Rug made the cut. “We drove into New York City, and at every exit, we practiced the pitch,” Fred remembers. “We were there by 5 a.m. and hardly slept the night before.”
They sold a few hundred units immediately. QVC bought 1,500 more and Ripple Rug became a top seller. “It was pretty damned amazing,” says Fred. “We were profitable out of the gate, which is virtually unheard of. It felt like a great moment.”
It was, and it wasn’t. Over the next 14 months, the Ruckels learned that coming up with a truly original innovation attracts not only devoted customers but also the kind of highly organized, deep-pocketed bootleggers who rip off products and systematically grind their inventors into the ground — both financially and emotionally. “It creates so much discord that you are willing to give up the dream of entrepreneurship and go back to your day job,” says Fred.
In the thick of battle, however, the Ruckels learned critical lessons: the importance of copyrighting assets before launching; the reality that people will steal everything from your marketing pitch to your product to your advertising photos; the need to continually patrol for ripoffs and take action. They also got a darkly fascinating glimpse of how ruthless, well-funded, deeply sophisticated bootlegging operations work — and how, with tenacity, vigilance, a good lawyer and the right strategy, they can be beaten.
To read how they won, here is the rest of the article:
Earlier today, iPEL, Inc., launched its new website and a brand-new model of patent monetization, which offers free and paid licensing options to operating companies. iPEL has also defined a set of business practices that a Non-Practicing Entity can follow in order to call itself an Ethical NPETM.
iPEL was formed with $100 Million in initial capital, in May of 2017, by Brian Yates, a well-known patent monetizer, and Rasheed McWilliams, a respected patent trial attorney. For the last year, iPEL has been actively building its worldwide patent portfolio, which currently includes more than 1,000 distinct patent families.
iPEL announced its Initial License Offering, available only through the end of 2018, which provides all companies an opportunity to secure a license to iPEL’s entire worldwide patent portfolio, through one of two licensing programs: (1) free licenses for small businesses and startups, and (2) paid licenses for larger businesses.
Both categories of licenses should be a welcomed change for operating companies, who historically learned of patents owned by one of Mr. Yates’ companies by being sued. Indeed, the dozens of NPEs that Mr. Yates has owned were often amongst the most active patent plaintiffs in the US and were responsible for more than 1,000 patent infringement lawsuits, against a majority of the companies on the Fortune 1000.
With iPEL, it seems clear Mr. Yates is intent on pursuing a very different monetization model. “It’s pretty funny,” said Mr. Yates. “Several people thought I retired or left the patent monetization business, because during the last year, I have not created dozens of new NPEs or filed hundreds of new patent lawsuits. But, I just turned 43 years old, and I have no desire to retire anytime soon. I love what I do and am incredibly proud of what we are doing with iPEL. And, even though it has been fun keeping the details of iPEL a secret, it’s going to be a lot more fun watching iPEL impact the entire innovation ecosystem.”
Although Mr. Yates and Mr. McWilliams would not share the full scope of what iPEL has planned, it is clear that they want to change the NPE narrative. Providing a defined list of best practices and clearly defined pre-litigation licensing options are definitely new talking points for NPEs.
Even the most vigilant anti-NPEs, however, will have a hard time criticizing iPEL’s offer to grant small businesses and startups a completely free, no strings license to its entire patent portfolio.
iPEL’s free license is available to any company whose gross annual revenues do not exceed $5 Million USD (or the equivalent in any other national currency) and is for a one-year term. Although the license is renewable, it is not available to affiliates or subsidiaries of larger entities that do not meet the revenue restrictions.
“We know that small businesses and startups are the most likely to engage in paradigm-shifting innovation” said Mr. Yates, CEO of iPEL. “Those companies are not afraid to take risk, to ask big questions, or to dream. Unfortunately, in almost all instances, those same companies cannot afford to buy all of the patent licenses they need in order to implement their new technologies. iPEL wants to help these companies succeed, by giving them a large portfolio of patented technologies, upon which they can freely build.”
“There is no reason patent licensing cannot and should not be a celebrated exchange of innovation and technology between those with rights and those who need to leverage those rights in order to produce and distribute products,” said Mr. McWilliams, President of iPEL. “Patent and technology licensing has been a part of the fabric of American culture since the earliest days of our history as a nation.”
“Regrettably, patent licensing has become a maligned practice over the last decade in the United States,” said Mr. Yates. “This has allowed the many benefits of patent licensing to lay unrealized, and for innovation to stagnate. My hope is that by giving free, non-exclusive rights to iPEL’s valuable patent portfolio, startups and small businesses will create more jobs and create exciting new technologies.”
Of course, there is a self-serving piece to what iPEL is doing as well. If startups and small businesses do successfully build on the patents in iPEL’s portfolio, then they will at some point becoming paying licensees. “Sure, it just makes good business sense really,” said Mr. McWilliams. “These small companies don’t have the ability to pay for patent licenses, and a patent infringement lawsuit could cripple them before they even get started. We’d love for them to build on our valuable technologies without worry, and once they can afford it, purchase an ongoing license. It is a win-win for everyone.”
At the end of the day, iPEL hopes this new, startup-friendly model becomes an industry standard. “Despite the false narrative that has been spread by many willful infringers, NPEs are a vital part of innovation and the global economy. And, at iPEL, we are holding ourselves to the highest professional standards, by giving all companies an opportunity to secure licenses on reasonable, pre-litigation terms. And, small businesses and startups should never be afraid of an NPE jeopardizing their company. For those reasons, we challenge the rest of the industry to follow our lead,” Mr. Yates said. “It is time for NPEs to stop allowing infringers to define us as a bunch of heartless monsters. Everyone should abide by the Ethical NPETM practices and support small businesses and startups. It’s simply the right thing to do.”
More information about iPEL’s Ethical NPETM criteria, its worldwide patent portfolio, and its free and paid licensing programs, is available at www.ipel.com.
Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it comes when we least expect it.
For me, the “a-ha!” moment often hits in the dead of night, or when I’m in the middle of a meeting or driving. We Americans are a nation of problem-solvers, and it’s no wonder that we’ve come up with some of the world’s best ideas. The list of world-changing inventions dreamed up by Americans is astounding.
Sometimes, what you or I think of as a revolutionary idea has already been tried; other times they’re not practical, not marketable or are hamstrung by red tape and competition. But every once in a while, somebody comes up with something amazing and makes millions. It’s this quest for fame and fortune that drives many people to take their idea for a “better mousetrap” and go for it.
TV shows such as “Shark Tank” have propelled many inventors to riches and glory, as celebrity investors decide whether the ideas are worth a shot. An industry has even sprung up around the potential profit in new inventions, promising to help get your idea patented, protected and marketed.
But, as some budding Edisons have discovered, many “invention promotion” companies are nothing but scams, designed to hook the hopeful into spending big bucks with dreams of getting their products to market.
Back in March, the Federal Trade Commission busted a Miami Beach, Florida-based company called World Patent Marketing, which had allegedly promised would-be inventors it could help its clients successfully develop and market their products. Instead, the FTC told a federal court, all but a few consumers found themselves shelling out big bucks with nothing to show for it. In all, the FTC’s complaint alleges, the scheme bilked consumers out of more than $10 million. The complaint also accused parent company Desa Industries and its CEO Scott Cooper of involvement in the scheme.
The company is accused of using a variety of tactics to lure new customers and reassure existing ones, such as made-up “success stories” about people the company had helped. Adding insult to injury, some customers claimed that when they tried to complain or wrote negative online reviews, the company used intimidating tactics to shut them down, including threatening them with lawsuits.
One potential inventor told the Broward County, Florida, Sun-Sentinel that he had given $300,000 to the company to promote his idea for a net device that could be attached to a cellphone case to hold keys and other small items, only to come up empty-handed.
For its part, Cooper’s legal team has noted in court filings that the invention-promotion business is risky, and that fact is made clear on its website and promotional materials as a warning to potential clients.
If you do come up with an extraordinary idea, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office advises that you proceed carefully. The agency has a brochure at https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ScamPrevent.pdf that lists some of the warning signs of an invention-promotion scam, and notes that the law requires invention promotion companies must disclose the following information:
If you want to find out more, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0184-invention-promotion-firms, as well as http://ipwatchdog.com.
Contact Bill Moak at firstname.lastname@example.org.