One of the most frustrating steps throughout in the invention process is when you reach the stage of actually getting a product to market. Many new inventors lack the funds to get further than the prototype, or perhaps they do not possess the knowledge of how to get the product from their living room to the shelves. Unfortunately, many so-called “invention help” companies take advantage of fledgling inventors and promise them success while taking their money and, ultimately, delivering nothing. Invention submission companies, when honestly and fairly operated, can be a great help to the inventor. They get a product to market and split the profits with the inventor – giving an inventor the capital they need to keep inventing. However, many of these companies are scams.

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Here are three major warning signs that an invention submissions company may not be as decent and upstanding as they claim:

Requiring excessive fees: Not only do these companies charge an initial startup fee, but they also send bundles or kits to the inventor that contain a detailed plan from the company for getting the product to market. The company will quote the inventor thousands of dollars for a promise of advertising, website design, prototyping and other random fees. When the inventor, feeling obligated to pay, sends the money, the company often fails to deliver. The company receives the money and all of the inventor’s personal information.

Acceptance of every idea: As anyone who has ever patented something knows, the early stages of a product’s life require a lot of revision and reworking. What seems like a great idea may have already been submitted for patent long ago, or may be simply an unattainable product. A company who us trying to scam you will not be honest about the likelihood of a product making it to market. Instead, they will accept every idea for a large fee, and after the inventor has invested thousands of dollars, report that the idea is unmarketable or has already been done. The inventors working at a good company will be picky about the ideas they support, given that they do not want to waste time or money on a bad idea.

Suspicious communication: If an invention company is constantly pressuring you to get started right away, or perhaps being vague when you ask about their success rate or previously successful inventions, you may want to look elsewhere. Companies that recommend the wrong patent type, promote any idea, ask you to send your ideas via mail, send pre-signed confidentiality agreements, refuse to list the total cost of services upfront or have conflicting business addresses, are generally up to no good.

Before paying any money to a company that claims to be able to help you get your invention to market, do your research! Call your local Better Business Bureau, check with the Federal Trade Commission, and search for invention company scams online. Very few patents ever make money, so invention companies tend to be very selective as to who they will work with. Your best bet is to look for a company that offers a lifetime or yearly membership fee that allows you to submit your ideas for the company to review and give you an honest critique. This will save you the trouble of investing in a bad idea to begin with.