In the previous blog – Why Most Inventors Fail – Invention Marketing Companies, I described some ways to separate good resources that assist inventors from predators that bilk limited resources but provide little or nothing of tangible value.
This post is a follow on: a template for screening invention-marketing companies.
When an inventor considers working with any resource there is an initial screening phone call to the company (at this point, the company may be a resource or a predator). During this call, the inventor attempts to determine the bona fides of the company, while the company responds by either describing the services they can provide or by cajoling the inventor with promises of riches.
Below is a 5-question template I have found quite useful for separating the resources from the predators. For illustration, I will describe classic responses from the predators (as opposed to bona fide resources) – thus we will use Inventor and Predator.
Question 1: This is a softball question that is easy to answer
Inventor: Hello, what kinds of services do you provide to inventors?
Predator: We can help with trademarks, patenting, prototyping, manufacturing and licensing of your product. We are truly a full service firm
Question 2: This is a simple, but important screening question
Inventor: Can you help me if I have only an idea and have not filed any kind of patent?
Predator: That is not a problem at all. You can bring us any idea with sketches or any descriptive information you have. We can evaluate your idea and provide patent assistance to move your idea forward to market success.
Question 3: This is a question that requires them to go off script, provide specifics
Inventor: If I bring my product to you, what specific steps would you take to assist me?
Predator: Well, of course, we are a large variety of services and what we do next would depend upon your product. We can go in a lot of different directions.
Question 4: This is a deceptively simple question that sets the stage for the last question
Inventor: Have you helped many inventors to license successfully?
Predator: Oh, absolutely. That is what we are in business to do. We have broad expertise licensing expertise and relationships with all of the big box retailers.
Question 5: This question springs the trap – reveals predators every time
Inventor: Great! Can you provide me with a list of products you have licensed, what stores sell them, and names of a few inventors I could talk with?
Predator: Uhh, no. That information is proprietary. Our relationships with all our inventors are proprietary to protect their intellectual property, just as we will do with you.
Usually, after they receive this question and feel the heat, they will suddenly have an important meeting that forces them to end the call.
Post Mortem – Questions 1 – 5:
Question 1: The purported “expertise” is extremely broad; always a red flag. Typically a resource may provide assistance with licensing, for example. A company that assists with prototypes is not likely to have expertise in licensing and vice versa. A true resource generally provides assistance with a narrower topic or need so they will have developed good expertise. No one can be an expert across a broad expanse of need.
Question 2: Any company that encourages the inventor to disclose an idea immediately imperils all patent rights of the inventor. Unless the person is a patent agent or attorney, any disclosure of specifics of the idea is a public disclosure causing loss of all international patent options and forcing the inventor to file a US patent within a year. A true resource would encourage the inventor not to disclose specifics and to be patent pending before talking with them or other companies.
Question 3: Predators always have vague descriptions of what they do. They avoid specifics. Asking them for specific steps pushes them off-script. So they will respond rather evasively, not really answering the question. A bona fide resource, on the other hand, could and would provide some specific steps.
Question 4: This question sets a trap. Predators like to make broad claims of success, so asking a broad question as to whether they have licensed “many” inventors plays perfectly into their script of riches just around the corner.
Question 5: This question is the trap. They have never licensed anyone or any product, so of course they cannot provide a list of successful results. They don’t license or market any products; they market bogus, unnecessary, expensive “services” to inventors. This question frightens them, causes them to become defensive and to wish to immediately end the call.