Tuesday, December 23, 2008

InventHelp Goes Open Innovation

Look who’s joining the open innovation game … controversial invention submission company InventHelp.

The Pittsburgh-based company with the checkered past in the inventor industry announced this week that it is offering a Web portal to help companies find new products from inventors.

It joins a growing roster of open innovation players, including Inventors Digest partner Edison Nation, InventBay, MatchProduct.com and Big Idea Group, among others.

“For just minutes a month and at no cost, companies can tap into a new source of ideas, creativity and innovation,” InventHelp said in a press release.

Its InventHelp Open Innovation Resource Web site gives corporations access to business resources (white papers, testimonials, and interviews) and to register to receive new product announcements.

Companies may register in the InventHelp Data Bank at no charge and receive submissions of inventions that are matched to the companies' areas of new product development interest.

Gene Quinn, patent attorney, blogger and founder of intellectual property Web site ipwatchdog.com, found the announcement interesting.

"It seems like a good idea, although it coming from InventHelp makes me think there is an angle somewhere," he told me in an e-mail. "The only way it makes sense to do this is to have patent applications filed, and they would need to be strong ones otherwise the inventor would be giving away the keys to the kingdom for no benefit in return."

InventHelp made news recently when it said it was canceling INPEX in 2009 due to low corporate commitment. The company bills INPEX as the largest inventor trade show in the country. Next year was to be its 25th anniversary. InventHelp officials said they’ll resume the show in 2010.

InventHelp has no shortage of possible products for companies. Between 2005 and 2007 it signed submission agreements with 5,959 clients. Most of those never made any money, according to InventHelp.

As a result of its services, 98 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 20 clients have received more money than they paid InventHelp, the company has reported. In other words, inventor clients had a 0.3 percent chance of making more money than they paid InventHelp.

InventHelp is a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also known as Western Invention Submission Corp. and a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp is among the major invention submission companies critics call a scam. Complaints essentially accuse InventHelp of not doing enough to get inventors’ products to market. InventHelp, the accusations continue, lures inventors to spend more money on marketing and other services of dubious value.

In 1994, without admitting guilt, the company settled allegations of fraud with the Federal Trade Commission. InventHelp has been the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints. Entire Web sites are devoted to warning inventors to stay away from the company.

An Inventors Digest LexisNexis search of court records shows that InventHelp has never been convicted of fraud or wrongdoing.

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