The Federal Government and many States have regulations that require "Invention Marketing" and "Invention Development" firms to disclose their "Success Rate" in their contracts, and several State and Federal agencies where inventors can file a complaint against an unscrupulous
"invention promoter" company. These "success rates" are generally not available to other inventors until they are presented with a contract, and filing a complaint is only useful AFTER an inventor has been taken advantage
We believe that it would be a tremendous public service if the mass media (TV, radio station or publisher) that runs the invention promoter's advertisements would also require these companies to disclose their "Success Rate" in some type of disclaimer in their ads. Therefore, we suggest that if you do file a complaint, that you also:
(1) send a copy of the complaint to the TV, radio station or publisher that runs the invention promoter's advertisements; and
(2) send a copy to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Urge them to review the company's "success rate" and consider requiring them to publish a disclaimer in their ad. The mass media cannot do anything unless it receives a complaint,
however, if they begin receiving complaints, and knowing that their name
is being publicly disclosed in a complaint against an invention
promoter, they may take steps to check the credibility of those
advertising invention development services on their station.
American Inventors Protection Act of 1999
While the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office 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 accept complaints filed against invention promoters/promotion firms and forward these complaints to the invention promoters/promotion firms for response. Both the complaints and the responses will be made publicly available. They will be published beginning in 2002. The USPTO does not accept complaints submitted under this system if the complainant requests confidentiality.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, they investigate fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices and can lead to law enforcement action. The FTC has closed down several invention development firms and provides a heads-up caution on invention promoters/promotion firms, and Sweet-Sounding Promises. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the online complaint form. To see if a company has been investigated and/or fined by the Federal Trade Commission visit http://www2.ftc.gov/search and type in the word "invention" or the name of the company. To see some of the cases visit the following links:
Your State Attorney General's Office
The Attorney General's Office in your state can be very helpful, and very effective. The Attorney General's office is committed to protecting consumers from deceptive business practices and consumer fraud, and have also closed down several invention development firms. If you are in Texas you can visit the Office of the Attorney General of Texas and get an online complaint form. Click here to find a local Texas Regional Office. If you are in Houston, you can contact the HOUSTON REGIONAL OFFICE (713) 223-5886 and ask for the Consumer Fraud Division. They are located at 808 Travis, Suite 812, Houston, Texas 77002-1702. To find the Attorney General of your state, click here.
Your Better Business Bureau
You can check out a company at the National Better Business Bureau Website However, many of the companies named in the cases above, still do not have a "negative report" from the Better Business Bureau. They also change their name often to avoid complaints. If you have attempted to resolve your complaint directly with the company, and are still not satisfied, the BBB will try to assist you. Please note that the BBB does not take either side in a dispute. Instead, they work to facilitate communication between the company and the consumer, to help both sides come to a satisfactory resolution to the complaint. In many cases, dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration, may be available to help resolve the dispute. You can locate your local BBB here. You can fill out an online complaint form here.
THE GRAND SLAM
We suggest that you do ALL of the above. However, as we said above, filing a complaint is only useful AFTER an inventor has been taken advantage of. We suggest that you ALSO: