DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
An excellent question that just scratches the surface of the risks involved when using an invention submission corporation. Submission of an idea to an invention submission corporation (ISC) is not the same as filing a patent application, and is generally "far from" the same as having your invention reviewed by a competent patent attorney or patent agent, who helps the inventor prepare and file a patent application which adequately covers and protects the invention. I have seen cases where the invention submission corporations (ISC) refers the trusting inventor to a law firm who then "facilitates" the filing of a provisional patent application by disclosing only the few details and sketches that the inventor her/himself provided to the ISC. That is not a competent patent practice. The inventor's idea may then be shown to third parties (usually outside companies) by the ISC without using a confidentiality agreement, and before a more complete non-provisional patent application was filed. The inventors are generally not aware of the risks that this may raise, both to the inventor's international and US patent rights. If the ISC, or a competent patent attorney or patent agent, does not help the inventor to adequately prepare and file a first patent application, then there is a risk that one of those outside companies could file a patent application on a similar or slightly different invention, and prevail to obtain a patent over that of the inventor. I recommend that an inventor avoids invention submission corporations unless you are also represented by a competent patent attorney or patent agent, especially one who is not affiliated with or referred by the ISC.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Malhotra Law Firm, PLLC | Deepak Malhotra
Some invention submission companies will mass-mail a very nicely published description of your product to multiple companies. The companies will ignore the mailings. The mailing is likely to start the clock on the one year deadline to file a patent application. (If the U.S. switches to a first-to-file system, that one year grace period may go away). So their actions may bar you from obtaining a patent. But for another company to obtain a patent, one of the requirements is that they have to be an inventor. Before hiring an invention submission company, ask them for some references (examples of success stories) and ask them about their success rate. What percentage of their clients see any return on investment? Also check the name of the company on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's scam prevention page http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/scam_prevention/index.jsp Also consider joining a local incubator where there are multiple start-up companies around you, some of whom can usually point you to reputable marketing and legal service providers.
Answer Applies to: Washington