A Pennsylvania class action lawsuit claims InventHelp is a scam, preying upon low income people, often minorities, and either does nothing or delivers subpar work.
According to the lawsuit, the InventHelp scam goes like this: At the initial visit, inventors are told their invention is original and potentially highly profitable, even when similar products already exist in the marketplace. Then InventHelp charges thousands of dollars to commercialize their invention, offering a high-interest loan if they can’t afford those steep fees. Using high-pressure tactics such as “today is the very last day of a special or promotion that will save hundreds or thousands of dollars,” they are told they must sign immediately before they leave the office. Once the money is in hand, InventHelp disappears and dodges calls for months or years. Eventually they resurface, claiming a company is now interested in licensing or manufacturing their invention. After charging thousands more to arrange licensing or manufacturing deals, InventHelp once again disappears. After which, the inventors later discover that the supposedly interested companies never even existed.
The lawsuit demands compensatory damages of $72 million, restitution and monetary damages, interest, costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and permanent injunctive relief against InventHelp to correct their practices to comply with consumer protection laws.
Calhoun et al
v. Invention Submission Corp. dba InventHelp et al
Quoted from the class action lawsuit complaint:
InventHelp is in the Business of Taking Consumers’ Money with Fraudulent Promises
“[InventHelp]’s ubiquitous television and internet commercials, featuring a cartoon image of a caveman sitting on a rock, banging a wheel with a chisel, promise consumers that InventHelp has contracts with thousands of companies that are looking for new ideas.
In truth and in fact, InventHelp is not in the business of helping aspiring inventors develop and monetize their inventions. Rather, InventHelp is in the business of taking consumers’ money with fraudulent promises and oftentimes phony “companies looking for new ideas.”
Multi-Tiered Conspiracy Preys Upon Aspiring Inventors’ Hopes and Dreams
“Whilst InventHelp and the other named Defendants hold themselves out to be independent companies, they are one and the same, and are parts of an integrated fraudulent enterprise.”
“[InventHelp et al]’s multi-tiered conspiracy preys upon aspiring inventors’ high hopes and dreams. It is cleverly constructed to avoid liability and monetary judgment by employing an intricate web of seemingly independent entities – invention promotion companies, private money lenders, patent attorneys, licensing and distribution companies, and manufacturing companies – that act in concert to defraud Class Plaintiffs.”
False Promises and Boilerplate “Analyses”, Then Disappearing and Dodging Calls As Soon As Money in Hand
“After luring Class Plaintiffs in with slick television and internet advertising, [InventHelp et al] assure each and every consumer who inquires of their services that Plaintiffs’ ideas are unique, patentable, and/or carry terrific potential for immense profit.
In exchange for fees ranging between $700 and $30,000, [InventHelp et al] represent that they will obtain patents and produce models, press releases, and infomercials, among other things, to promote Class Plaintiffs’ inventions.”
“Then, because Class Plaintiffs often do not have at hand the thousands of dollars ‘necessary’ to make their dreams come true, they are offered generous loans by “independent private money lender” Universal Payment Corporation. This “independent private money lender” is not independent at all – it operates under the same ownership and control as InventHelp.
[InventHelp et al] make off with Class Plaintiffs’ money and do little to nothing to fulfill their end of the bargain, stringing Class Plaintiffs along with false promises and boilerplate “analyses” in order to extract more money from them for additional services (which they do not and never intend to provide), and then disappearing and dodging calls as soon as [InventHelp et al] have all the money in hand.”
After Months or Years of Silence, Reappear in Guise of Manufacturing Companies Scamming More Money
“After months or years of silence, [InventHelp et al] reappear to Class Plaintiffs, sometimes in the guise of distribution, marketing or manufacturing companies, and other times as representatives of InventHelp or Intromark Incorporated, Plaintiffs’ “licensing agents,” telling Class Plaintiffs that they’ve discovered Class Plaintiffs’ inventions, that they have purchase orders, licensing agreements, and/or retail distributors at the ready, and that they just need an additional $5,000 – $10,000 in order to make those final arrangements. After scamming more money from Plaintiffs, they disappear without a trace.”
Enterprise as a Whole is Fraudulent and Poses the Threat of Continued Criminal Activity
“Fraud permeates all of the dealings and contracts between Class Plaintiffs and all Defendants herein, from start to finish. [InventHelp et al]’s enterprise as a whole is fraudulent.”
“In truth and in fact, [InventHelp et al] do not (nor ever intend to) fulfill the bulk of the promises they make to Plaintiffs, instead making off with their money and leaving Plaintiffs high and dry.”
“Moreover, the scheme described herein is a continuing operation and poses the threat of continued criminal activity, preying upon unsuspecting victims. [InventHelp et al]’s websites and television commercials continue to tout their invention promotion services to lure potential inventors to enter into contracts with [InventHelp et al] for fraudulent invention promotion services.
Defendants operate a long-term association that exists for criminal purposes (e.g., fraudulently inducing potential inventors to enter into contracts that obligate the inventors to pay money to [InventHelp et al]).”
Falsely Representing that Companies were Interested in Proposed Inventions
“In truth and in fact, many DataBank companies do not exist, do not have relationships with [InventHelp et al], and/or are not appropriate companies to manufacture, license and/or market Plaintiff consumers’ proposed inventions.
[InventHelp et al]’s services are tailored to extract as much money from Plaintiffs as possible, have little to no utility for Plaintiffs, and are in fact a fraud.”
“Intromark defrauded Class Plaintiffs by falsely representing that companies were interested in Class Plaintiffs’ proposed inventions, when, in truth and in fact, no such companies expressed any interest and/or even existed.”
Plaintiff Etta Calhoun’s Story:
“The Word of God Bedding” Idea
According to the class action complaint, Plaintiff Etta Calhoun believed she had created a new invention: bed linens printed with words of Christian scripture which she called “The Word of God Bedding.”
InventHelp Meeting: Assured Her Idea was Original, When it was Not
Ms. Calhoun saw various TV ads for InventHelp featuring the cartoon image of a caveman sitting on a rock, banging a wheel with a chisel, and she called to ask about their services. When she met with InventHelp, their office was decorated with supposed successful inventions, which gave her the impression that InventHelp was a reliable and reputable company that had successfully helped other inventors.
At that meeting, an InventHelp representative assured Ms. Calhoun that “her idea was not only viable, but that it was original and presented an excellent opportunity for profit.” In actuality, her idea was not original and several companies already made and sold similar products. This is typical for the initial InventHelp meeting, and in fact, “all Class Plaintiffs were told that their proposed inventions were novel, marketable, and/or presented excellent opportunities for profit.”
$780 Basic Information Package Just Loosely-Related Cut and Pasted Info
Ms. Calhoun was overjoyed that a seemingly experienced, reputable, and successful company, InventHelp, was impressed with her idea. She agreed to pay $780 for a “Basic Information Package Report.” But when she received the report, it was nothing more than loosely-related cut and pasted information.
Although claiming to be an end in itself, in reality, “the Basic Information Package is part of [InventHelp et al]’s ploy to convince consumers that their inventions are marketable, and con them into signing contracts for the more expensive Submission Services.”
Patentability Opinion Nothing but Boilerplate Drivel
Ms. Calhoun was led to believe that an objective and independent registered patent attorney, Defendant Thomas Frost, drafted the Patentability Opinion, but in reality he “receives all or a substantial percentage of his business from [InventHelp et al], and is not independent nor objective.”
“The Patentability Opinion provided to Ms. Calhoun is nothing but boilerplate drivel, meant to appear professional, and is purposefully confusing so that unsuspecting inventors will proceed with expensive “Submission Services” with InventHelp.”
Pressured to Take Out Loan for More Expensive “Submission Services”
Ms. Calhoun was told that InventHelp would partner with her for $9,950 for their “Submission Services” to market her invention. She couldn’t afford that, and the representative told her that InventHelp had a “relationship” with a “private money lender” and conveniently had a loan contract from Defendant Universal Payment Corporation on hand.
InventHelp repeatedly called Ms. Calhoun to urge her to move forward with Submission Services. After being told it was the last day for a special offer to receive a $1,000 discount, and being reminded that she could finance the services with the loan, Ms. Calhoun signed up for InventHelp’s Submission Services.
$8,990 Submission Agreement with InventHelp
Ms. Calhoun signed a “Submission Agreement” with InventHelp for $8,990, which stated that “InventHelp will prepare a New Product Submission Brochure, which shall include a description of the invention, benefits and features, a 3D graphic or other illustration in color, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes and suggested distribution channels.”
The Agreement also claimed that “InventHelp maintains a Data Bank of companies that have registered to receive our clients’ submission materials on an ongoing basis.” InventHelp agreed to submit her idea to its “Data Bank” of companies as part of its Submission Services.
InventHelp Disclosure Statement:
Zero out of 56,345 Customers Made More Money Than They Paid
The 2013 Submission Agreement Ms. Calhoun signed with InventHelp included this disclosure: “The total number of customers who have contracted with the invention developer since 1985 is 56,345. The total number of customers known by this invention developer to have received, by virtue of this invention developer’s performance, an amount of money in excess of the amount paid by the customer to this invention developer is 0.”
3D Rendering of Invention Was Shoddily Done
Ms. Calhoun was extremely distressed when she received the DVD containing the 3D renderings of her invention. “It was shoddily-done, and, to her dismay, did not present her “Word of God Bedding” in an attractive light.”
When she called InventHelp to express her disappointment and concern, the representative told her it was purposefully presented that way so no one could steal her idea. “Upon information and belief, this was a lie.”
InventHelp’s Data Bank of Sham Companies
InventHelp claimed to send Ms. Calhoun’s New Product Submission Brochure to the companies in its Data Bank. In reality, the “Data Bank company lists sent to all InventHelp customers, are shams. Some of the companies do not exist and are purposefully misspelled to resemble actual existing companies that have no relationship with InventHelp (for example, listing the company as ‘Inc.’ instead of ‘LLC’).” Other companies have no relationship or agreements with InventHelp. Some of the companies are sham companies affiliated with InventHelp itself.
No Infrastructure to Deal with Companies Actually Interested in Inventions
In the rare instance that a company attempts to contact InventHelp to express interest in an invention, InventHelp does not return the calls. “InventHelp has no infrastructure to deal with companies that actually want to proceed with ideas. Rather, InventHelp’s business model is to take consumers’ money with absolutely no intention to follow up with any outside company that may be interested in a prospective inventor’s idea.”
All Efforts Made by InventHelp to Commercialize Her Invention are Lies and Scams
Throughout the entire process, Ms. Calhoun continued making monthly payments towards the loan she took out for Submission Services. When she couldn’t afford the full payment, she would still send something, even $10 or $15. But as she fell behind in her loan payments, the collection calls started, threatening to report her to Credit Agencies and destroy her credit.
“In sum, all “efforts” made on Ms. Calhoun’s behalf by [InventHelp et al] in order to help her “commercialize her invention” are lies and scams. [InventHelp et al], contrary to their written and verbal representations, have no meaningful interest or investment in fulfilling their contractual promises; rather, their business model is based upon receipt of Submission Service fees, and nothing more.”
She Wants to Know Why George Foreman Represents the Company
Etta Calhoun trusted InventHelp largely because of the TV ads featuring George Foreman, the two-time heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist who’d gone on to “George Foreman’s Grill” fame. As an ordained Christian minister and man of faith, George Foreman’s endorsement of InventHelp led her to believe the company was reputable.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Julie Plitt insists: “The company is totally a scam and he’s the front man for the scam.”
The TV ads leave people with the impression that he used InventHelp to make it big with his idea, but he’s actually just a paid spokesman. (In fact, many people think he invented the George Foreman Grill, Plitt says, when he did not. But he made millions of dollars promoting it.)
As for the lawsuit, Calhoun says she’s not suing for the money. “I just want them stopped,” Calhoun says. “They tell you that you come in and you give them your idea. And they go with it from there and they’ll do all that work for you. They would have it made and then you would give them 20 or 30 percent of everything, but you wouldn’t have to do any of the work.”
More info on class action lawsuits against InventHelp at:
InventHelp Sued in Multiple Class Action Lawsuits
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
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