A Pennsylvania class action lawsuit claims InventHelp fraudulently took money from consumers and failed to deliver on their submission services agreements to match and submit inventors’ ideas to companies in InventHelp’s Data Bank, which is not accurate or up-to-date. Plaintiffs seek damages; restitution; interest; attorneys’ fees, expenses, and recoverable costs; rescinding of contracts with InventHelp; and stopping InventHelp from continuing their unlawful practices.
Austin et al
v. Invention Submission Corp. dba InventHelp et al
Quoted from the class action lawsuit complaint:
InventHelp Claims to Submit New Ideas to its Proprietary Data Bank of Companies
“InventHelp advertises that it is in the business of submitting to industry the new ideas, inventions or products (“inventions” or “products”) of its inventor clients in exchange for a fee, to obtain a “good faith review” of inventions for the purpose of potential commercialization.
InventHelp represented to Plaintiffs that it would submit their inventions to certain businesses listed in a claimed proprietary Data Bank of approximately 9,000 companies (the “Data Bank”) that have both:
- registered with InventHelp; and
- agreed to review any inventions that InventHelp submits to them on a confidential basis.”
In Reality, InventHelp’s Submission Services are a Costly Scam
“In reality, InventHelp’s submission services are a costly scam.
InventHelp aggressively advertises its services to hopeful inventors and then extracts exorbitant fees from them ranging from $8,900 to $16,900, in exchange for the provision of invention services which are purportedly two-fold. Specifically, InventHelp promises that:
- it has specialized access to industry which it can leverage to get inventions to the right businesses that are interested in commercialization of customers’ inventions or products; and
- it has specialized and accurate means to select and match inventions to businesses.”
InventHelp’s Standardized Submission Services are Deeply Flawed
“InventHelp’s standardized submission services are deeply flawed, as it omits to disclose that it has no reasonable and systematic procedures in place to assure with accuracy that its Data Bank is not rife with defunct and non-operational companies and that InventHelp does not actually match its clients’ inventions to companies most likely to be interested in a particular invention so as to yield optimum results.”
Step One: Formulaic Basic Information Package (BIP) Convinces Inventors They Have a Viable Idea
“In the first step, inventors contract with InventHelp to prepare a Basic Information Package (“BIP”). The BIP contains standard information such as a brief description of the product, production and manufacturing considerations, costs, classification by Standard Industrial Codes (“SIC”) codes, features and functions, benefits, target markets, and distribution channels. Inventors pay between approximately $400 and $900 for the BIP.”
“While the BIP is formulaic, it looks professional enough to convince inventors that they have a viable idea or product and whets their appetite for the more comprehensive services that InventHelp promises to provide if they enter into a Submission Agreement with InventHelp for invention submission and promotion services.”
Step Two: Submission Agreement Promises Clients Unique Access to Industry
“In the Submission Agreement, InventHelp promises clients both unique access to industry and the benefit of InventHelp’s resources and expertise. InventHelp promises to assist and aid inventors to submit their inventions to industry and specifically promises to attempt to obtain a good faith review of customers’ inventions.
The services that InventHelp claims to offer include the development of a “New Product Submission Brochure,” submission of this brochure to companies that InventHelp matches with the clients’ inventions and follow up with interested businesses. The New Product Submission Brochure describes the client’s invention, includes product specifications and a diagram or picture of the invention, and Standard Industrial Codes (“SIC”) that InventHelp selects.”
Data Bank: Keystone of InventHelp’s Services
“InventHelp then promises to match inventors’ ideas to compatible companies in its Data Bank, as well as other companies in a separate non-proprietary database (that InventHelp refers to as “database” companies (versus its “Data Bank” companies). InventHelp represents that its Data Bank gives it the unique ability to promote clients’ inventions. Each Data Bank company is purported by InventHelp to have registered with InventHelp, identified its areas of interest, and signed a confidentiality and non-use agreement with InventHelp.
The Data Bank is the keystone of InventHelp’s services and the raison d’etre for purchasing InventHelp’s services.
InventHelp touts its Data Bank as a unique resource that it works to maintain and supplement by making contact with companies and asking those companies to register and identify their areas of interest. InventHelp also agrees to make a good faith attempt to match inventions with companies in the Data Bank most likely to be interested in a particular invention by selecting “search terms that describe the basic features of [an inventor’s] invention” and SIC codes.”
In Reality, InventHelp’s “Matches” are Far from Accurate
“InventHelp purports to send its clients’ New Product Submission Brochures to approximately 100 matching companies and promises that a majority of those companies will be Data Bank Companies.
In reality, however, InventHelp fails to inform customers that it does not:
- verify that it includes only bona fide companies in its Data Bank;
- remove non-responsive businesses from its Data Bank;
- remove non-operative or defunct businesses from its Data Bank;
- remove duplicative businesses from its Data Bank;
- assure that it properly identifies the Data Bank companies;
- assure that it properly categorizes the Data Bank companies; or
- follow reasonable procedures to assure that it accurately identified “specific matches to general industry category matches.”
InventHelp’s specific and industry “matches” are far from accurate. Its keyword searches and SIC code searches produce matches to far-flung, unrelated industries. InventHelp then compounds the failure of the matching system to find appropriate matches by failing to screen the lists of companies before sending clients’ New Product Submission Brochures to the claimed matched businesses.”
InventHelp Data Bank Included Non-Existent Companies and Frequently Mismatched Inventions and Companies
“InventHelp misled Plaintiffs that its Data Bank was accurate, up-to-date, and that it would weed out non-operational businesses, stating in its Submission Agreements with Plaintiffs and class members that it “maintains” the Data Bank, which is untrue.”
“In effect, InventHelp sent Plaintiffs’ New Product Submission Brochures into the ether with no knowledge whether:
- the submissions would arrive at their intended target;
- the intended target even operated a legitimate business that would review the submission, or
- that the intended target was an appropriate match, as represented.
InventHelp’s promises to match inventions to appropriate Data Bank companies is a key component of its Submission Agreements. InventHelp promised to match Plaintiffs’ and Class members’ inventions to related Data Bank companies.
Plaintiffs and Class members also expected that the Data Bank companies either entered into agreements with InventHelp, or confirmed their agreements recently enough that the consumer can expect an actual review by an existing company with an active interest in reviewing inventions InventHelp submitted to them, not that some of the Data Bank companies agreed to do so at some indefinite time so far in the past, that they no longer have any interest in reviewing InventHelp submissions, or are no longer in a position to review such submissions, either because the they are inactive or non-existent.”
“Had anyone at InventHelp reviewed or verified the Company Submission Reports that InventHelp submitted to its Data Bank companies, it would have been obvious to them that the InventHelp Data Bank included companies that had no meaningful existence, and that InventHelp frequently mismatched inventions and companies.”
FTC Prohibited InventHelp from Representing It has Specialized Access to Business Organizations
“InventHelp has run afoul of the law in the past for similar conduct, by representing that it has special access to industry. In 1994, Invention Submission Corporation of Pittsburgh (InventHelp) agreed to pay a fine of $1.2 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Under the terms of the settlement, among other restrictions, “[InventHelp] would be prohibited from representing that it has specialized, valuable access to business organizations.”
The FTC Settlement also prohibited [InventHelp] from misrepresenting “the value, or exposure to potential manufacturers that clients may realize by having their ideas included in the company’s new product advertisements or catalogs.”
(See Page 12 & Exhibit 10)
Plaintiff Carla Austin’s Story:
“No More Tissue” Toilet Seat Cover
According to the class action complaint, Carla Austin invented a cloth toilet seat cover that could be attached with elastic, pull strings, or snaps. This would solve the problem of cold toilet seats, and it could also be made out of decorative fabric such as a favorite team logo or cartoon character. She called her invention “No More Tissue.”
Ms. Austin signed a Submission Agreement and agreed to pay InventHelp $13,900 for its invention submission and matching services and also agreed to refrain from otherwise marketing her invention.
A Significant Portion of the Data Bank Company Submissions Were Worthless
InventHelp sent Ms. Austin two Company Submission Reports, each listing twenty-five Data Bank companies (for a total of fifty) to which InventHelp claimed to have mailed Ms. Austin’s New Product Submission Brochure.
The Company Submission Reports reveal that several companies appeared more than once or were no longer in business:
- Bemis Manufacturing – listed four times
- Zenith Products Corp. – listed twice
- Top Dog Direct – listed twice
- Viatek Consumer Products Group – listed twice
- Somerset Warehousing Plus Inc. – does not have an active website, possibly related to Smartworks, and if so, another duplicate entry
- Amerhandle Inc. – ceased operations in 2013
Ms. Austin hired InventHelp to seek licensing and marketing for a toilet seat cover. “Yet, a significant portion of the companies on the list were not in a compatible industry, therefore making the submissions worthless.”
- Lynk, Inc. – sells home organization products
- SmartWorks – provides project development and staffing services to companies in healthcare, banking, finance, telecommunication and aviation
- Like-It/Mira USA – Google searches for MIRA USA find a non-profit charity that promotes the social integration of immigrants
- Mishu Designs NY Inc. – sells magnets, frames, stickers, and other similar paraphernalia
- Upper Canada Soap – sells soap and toiletries, such as manicure kits, shaving kits, makeup organizers, and mirrors. While the word “toilet” is part of “toiletries,” the company was not a relevant match.
- Soapsox Kids – sells washclothes in whimsical shapes that hold soap for children to use at bath time
- W. Kintz Plastics Inc. – part of Universal Plastics, a plastic fabricator that does custom thermoforming, injection molding, structural foam molding, and custom blow molding – a wildly inappropriate company for submission of Ms. Austin’s toilet seat cover
Plaintiff Nil Leone’s Story:
“Solar Stroller” Invention
According to the class action complaint, Nil Leone invented a stroller that keeps the child cool in hot weather, includes entertainment features as well as storage space that can keep food and milk/formula chilled. She called it the “Solar Stroller.”
Ms. Leone signed a Submission Agreement and agreed to pay InventHelp $10,900 for its invention submission and matching services and also agreed to refrain from otherwise marketing her invention.
InventHelp Submitted Invention to Companies that were Non-Existent Or in an Incompatible Industry
InventHelp sent Ms. Leone two Company Submission Reports: one report listed seventeen Data Bank companies and eight database companies, and the other report listed twenty-five Data Bank companies, for a total of forty-two Data Bank companies and eight database companies to which InventHelp claimed to have mailed Ms. Leone’s New Product Submission Brochure.
InventHelp submitted Ms. Leone’s New Product Submission Brochure to non-existent and defunct entities:
- Dubon, LLC – dissolved in 2009
- Mossworld Enterprises, Inc. – dissolved in 2017
Ms. Leone hired InventHelp to seek licensing and marketing for a “Solar Stroller,” but her Company Submission Reports include baffling match results. Companies that InventHelp claims to have sent Ms. Leone’s “Solar Stroller:”
- Funny Monkey Stickers – its Facebook page describes its product as: “Funny Money Stickers is an exciting new way to personalize an impersonal cash gift!”
- What Kids Want – sells and licenses toys, but not strollers
- Mobi Technologies, Inc. – sells baby thermometers, blood pressure monitors, and baby monitoring cameras, but not strollers
- Michaelson Entertainment – sells customizable sports memorabilia
- Loopy Gear – sells specialty, handmade baby gear, such as wrist loops that attach toys and teethers to a baby’s wrist, bibs and similar products. It does not sell strollers.
InventHelp failed to make sure that its Data Bank was current or to ensure that it sent Ms. Leone’s invention to companies that were at least in the same general industry as the product that it told Ms. Leone it would market.
More info on class action lawsuits against InventHelp at:
New York Class Action Lawsuit: Zanotti v. InventHelp
Pennsylvania Class Action Lawsuit: Calhoun v. InventHelp
Pennsylvania Class Action Lawsuit: Miclaus v. InventHelp
Truth in Advertising
How to Protect Yourself from Invention Promotion Scams
Be Involved in the Process
As a new inventor or busy small business owner, the process of patenting and commercializing your invention can feel overwhelming, which makes the idea of paying someone else to handle everything for you very appealing.
Ultimately, this is your idea, and you cannot delegate your responsibility to make it succeed – you must become an Entrepreneur to bring your invention to market.
As a new Entrepreneur, you will need expert advice to help you – you must assemble a team of professionals. Using your vision, you lead the team, and the experts on your team give you the information you need to decisively take action steps, bringing your idea From Your Mind to the Marketplace®.
Beware Promises of Profits
No one can guarantee that you will make money from your invention. But you can improve your chances for success by being involved, getting professional advice and information along the way, and persisting in the face of obstacles until success is achieved.
Beware Patent Searches that Find Nothing
Even if your invention is unique and patentable, a good Patent Search should still find the prior art that is most similar to your invention. This is necessary for writing the patent application, so we can claim your invention as broadly as possible, while not stepping on the toes of any related prior art.
Call for a Free Consultation to Guide your Next Action Steps
Call for your Free Phone Consultation with Patent Attorney Russ Weinzimmer: (800) 621-3654.
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