How Inventors Can Avoid Patent Scams

Thousands of independent inventors are contacted by unscrupulous invention, promotion, licensing, and marketing firms each year. These shady firms attempt to scam inventors into purchasing a useless or excessively narrow patent, and the ploys often work by taking advantage of the inventor's enthusiasm for an invention and making false claims about how successful the products potential is. Below are a few warning signs that a patenting firm is not legitimate.

  • They make promises that sound too good to be true. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers make promises they can't follow through with in order to get inventors on board. Representatives with phony firms aren't concerned with whether they cannot hold up to their end of the deal; they just want your money.
  • They want a large sum of money right away. This is a telltale sign of a scam. These con artists hook you with their claims and then tell you that you need to buy right away in order to get the deal. They may say that someone else will patent your idea first if you don't patent at that very moment. These up-front fees are usually large. Reputable firms usually have a smaller up-front fee because they make their money off of successful royalty arrangements from the inventions they accept.
  • They won't respond to your questions in writing. Any firm that refuses to respond to your questions in writing is very questionable. Firms will do this to avoid lawsuits, as anything in writing can be used against them in a court of law. Always submit all questions in writing via email or print.
  • You are told that your idea is a surefire hit. Patent scammers will usually exaggerate how well your invention will sell in order to get you to purchase their product. If they do not give you a realistic review or opinion, they are likely a scammer.
  • They won't provide key documents for your review. Any legitimate firm will happily provide you with copies of all paperwork for your own personal review. It is a big red flag when a company cannot provide you with client references and other important documents. A real firm will be able to provide you with all the information you request.
  • It's difficult to directly contact anyone in the company. If it is difficult to reach a representative, it's probably because they don't have a real office or company location. A real business usually has a receptionist to take calls and messages. If they don't have a company address or location, it is likely a scam.
  • They lack positive standing with the BBB or FTC. The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission are both organizations that look into businesses to ensure they are legitimate. You can check online if the company is BBB- or FTC-approved before purchasing anything.
Last Updated: January 20, 2016