For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Thursday, 15 September 2005

MORE ON INVENTION PROMOTION COMPANIES


This weblog has received a considerable response to yesterday's post on invention promotion companies. For reasons of professional ethos or personal prudence, all are willing to be quoted on condition that their identities remain concealed. One friend of the IPKat writes from Dublin, Ireland:

"I would almost certainly guess that it's International Technology Exchange. This company and its principals have been subject to investigation in the UK and USA in the past.

Off the record - they have been subject to investigation by the statutory Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs here in Ireland, who asked the Irish Patents Office for assistance, and the Patents Office in turn brought in our Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, the equivalent of CIPA, to advise on whether ITE might be guilty of an offence for falsely claiming to be patent agents (they're almost certainly not, incidentally).

ITE has also been the subject of talk show discussions on one of the flagship discussion programmes on RTE national radio, when many disgruntled inventors voiced their complaints of having been swindled (as they saw it) out of their money. Of course, closer investigation shows that the inventors probably got what they paid for, i.e. nothing. This is the difficulty with any investigation against them - determining if they have in fact broken any laws even when they have left a trail of unhappy (and substantially poorer) inventors in their wake. I am not aware that any prosecution has been initiated against them in Ireland".
Another friend, from the United Kingdom writes:
"The firm currently advertising on television, usually late as costs are lower, only gives a telephone number. [I believe it advertises on one or more satellite channels but I only receive terrestrial broadcasts]. They send literature under the name International Technology Exchange (ITE). If you put this term into Google you will find their site. However another hit will be inventors.ca/ite.questions. This site will provide you with many stories of wickedness by the firm and their principals.

The modus operandi is to make a modest financial demand, £300 - £400, for a search and advice. The next demand is £ 4,000 - £ 5,000 at which point various people have come to me for advice. In the past ITE always insisted that a US patent application should be filed first. They never advised customers that if they were UK citizens resident in UK they must obtain a permit as otherwise they commit a criminal offence. [This requirement of Patents Act 1977 has been altered by the Patents Act 2004]. One poor fellow who attended a clinic in which I was concerned had paid £5,000 and allowed a US patent application to be filed. He was not happy to be told he had committed a criminal offence as his day job was that of a policeman! There is no record of anyone benefiting from the work of ITE apart from the people running the operation.

In USA, where the idea of invention promoting started, the Federal Trade Commission has been involved. Firms have changed their names from time to time but the leading one was forced by the FTC to return at least a million dollars to inventors. The FTC public warning leaflet is excellent and more strongly worded than the one issued by the UK Patent Office. A US colleague who is also an LES member said the only person expelled from LES for unethical practices was running an invention promotion service.

In theory invention promoters could be of great value to lone inventors with an idea. When the patent profession was investigated at Mrs Thatcher's request the report considered that such people could be valuable and replace patent agents by providing a one-stop shop for protecting and promoting inventions. In practice such firms would not be profitable unless they charged vast fees or were corrupt.

In the UK there has long been a more ethical firm Inventorlink. This firm makes an agreement with the inventor to promote his/her invention in return for a fee and a percentage of the eventual profits; the two amounts are related. The basic fee is high if the percentage is low and lower if the profit percentage is high. An ex-member of the firm, who resigned from the Register of Patent Agents so that he could be involved, told me that the success rate was poor.

I hope that this information is useful. It is a subject on which I have strong feelings".
A third, Rob Harrison from Germany, writes:
" ...We have them here in Germany as well – and guess what. The least serious ones seem to come from the United States.

Actually, there is one organisation "Patentstelle für die deutsche Forschung" – run by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (a public contract R&D organisation, similar to the Max-Plank-Institute) – whose mission is to support individual inventors and is funded by the Federal Government. They have a programme which helps to market inventions and file patent rights. They have had one or two successes.

Their biggest success was the basic MP3 patents – but these were developed in another part of the Fraunhofer Organisation and the patent group's main mission is to support the institutes of the Fraunhofer Organisation in filing and licensing IP rights".
The IPKat is very grateful for all this information. He urges all his readers to exercise extreme caution before placing their inventions in the hands of an invention promotion company. You never know what might happen.

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