This is a personal opinion of Rob Bishop. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my company Binkley Toys Inc.
I've received calls for years from clients who have paid for services from invention help type companies and now they are just trying to find a manufacturer. It frustrates me because the information the inventor is given sounds good, but there is some holes in the logic, and the cost of the invention resource services is very high, in my opinion. My opinion of what I hear, is that those people are getting ripped off.
The conversation goes like this;
I say "Oh you have a patent pending on your stuffed toy? That's odd because 98% of my clients in the past would not qualfy for a patent."
The caller says "Well, you're wrong because they told me I needed a patent and I have filing paperwork, a file number and everything."
And then I say "Okay, it sounds like you have a provisional patent then. Do you mind if I ask you how much you've paid this other company?"
The caller says "Well, I've spent $18,000*** and they are working hard on my idea."
And then I say " Okay, for $18,000 what do you have?"
The caller says "I have a big report that was sent to me, and a patent pending application."
And that's when I try to present some clarity to the situation,
" So, you have a digital report that was emailed to you, and a patent pending number for $18,000?"
The caller then tries to defend their purchase and tell me how the inventor help company is doing all of this work...
I'd like to give you my opinion about what these callers have been given for $18,000
I was sent the report from several of these callers. The reports are basically the same, with simply an image changed, the company name changed, and the inventors name changed.| back to top |
The reports I received indicated that the toys should comply with the standards setforth by the JPMA. (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) Being in the toy industry you think I would know all about the JPMA. I don't. I went to the JPMA website, found contact information and asked if they certify toys. The response was (edited for clarity here);
Their website shows that they deal with;
› Bath Seats
› Bath Tubs
› Bassinets & Cradles
› Bedside Sleepers
› Booster Seats
› Carriages & Strollers
› Changing Tables
› Children's Folding Chairs
› Frame Infant Carriers
› Full-Size Cribs
› Gates & Enclosures
› Hand Held Infant Carriers
› High Chairs
› Infant Swings
› Play Yards/ Non Full-Size Crib
› Portable Bedrails
› Portable Hook-On Chairs
› Soft Infant Carriers
› Stationary Activity Centers
› Toddler Beds
(list is copyright ©2010 JPMA)
In my opinion, stating that the toys should comply with JPMA standards is not only inaccurate, but also could cost you a lot of money and time. Not warning a client that the toys must comply with CPSIA safety standards (USA) or EN71 (Europe) or one of the other standards around the World, is very poor information. In my opinion, to state that claim means they don't know much about the toy industry, so how can they charge huge fees to be that expert?| back to top |
Some reports had typos, misspellings and poor grammar, in my opinion. (well in the opinion of the English language)| back to top |
The reports stated the 'markets' the toy would be suitable for and basically just listed a bunch of sales channels. The sales channels included 'infommercials' and almost every other sales channel anyone could think of. For a start-up, it would be extremely expensive to start with some of the suggested sales channels in my opinion. There was no information offered on the benefits and problems with any of the sales channels or how they could be used in unison. Just a list of sales channels. Pretty basic information in my opinion and not worth $6,000 - $18,000 in my opinion.| back to top |
They listed the 'target markets' which was simply another list of every possible age without any indication of which were better, or how to market to those age groups. For a small business to target 'everyone' that means you are not talking to anyone. Unless you have a budget like Pepsi, or McDonalds you want to be very specific about your target market, in my opinion.| back to top |
They push the inventor in to getting a 'patent'. You cannot patent the look of a toy. I have discussed with many lawyers how a patent must be a very specific and unique mechanical function of a toy, or a specific and unique manufacturing method to make the toy (or part of the toy) For example, a patent I've come across that dealt with toys, was concerning a very specific physical method how the stuffing hole on the toy was closed. It was very different and unique and that one part of the toy (the method in which the stuffing hole was closed) was covered under a patent.
Anyone can get a provisional patent, but within 12 months you need to apply and qualify for a full patent which is very expensive and you can (and most likely will) be denied a patent. I say most likely, because the reports I saw we showing a full toy and it's idea, which would not qualify for a full patent.
If you're not going to spend the 10's of thousands of dollars for the full patent, and it won't qualify for one anyway, then why get a provisional patent?
A provisinoal and full patent is a very good tool for many inventions, but it means nothing for a whole stuffed toy, and the vast majority of my clients would not qualify for a patent, in my opinion.
They claim to 'market' your toy idea to potential buyers. For years I received their faxes and now I receive their emails. I don't buy people's ideas. I never have. I probably never will. If I'm one of these buyers on their list, how good is their list? Not very good in my opinion.| back to top |
The sketches (or virtual prototypes) I've seen on the reports were not very attractive in my opinion. The proportions were off, and they looked very stiff for toys. I was told that it took many months to complete the virtual prototypes which seemed like a long time in my opinion. I've been working with artists and graphics people for over two decades, and if we ever took over a week or two to get sketches back to a customer, we'd be out of business by now, in my opinion.| back to top |
What I would pay?
I feel paying for knowlege and expertise is great. I've been paying for my yearly business education through marketing groups, and toy associations for many years. It advances me ahead of where I was in the past. If I was going to pay to get help, I'd expect to pay the following.
Artwork - sketches, revisions, color sketch and then color sketch revisions. $400 - $800 depending on the complexity of the idea. The examples I saw from the inventor resource type companies were in the $400 or less range.
Provisional Patent - I wouldn't get one because I wouldn't qualify for or could not afford a a full patent. $0 If your product did qualify for a patent search fees are $ 120 - $650 for a full patent. And $125 to $250 for a provisional patent. Lawyer fees to help with the search and details would be above and beyond these fees. You can see all the fees for the US here.
Copyright - Copyright is immediate and free if witnessed by another person. You can also register a copyright with the US Government for $35 here In Canada it is between $50 - $65 and can be done online here.
Marketing Help - if someone was truly going to present my idea to serious buyers, the fee would need to be huge. I am fairly certain that if someone had those types of contacts, they wouldn't be offering those services for less than $ 100,000 (made through a percentage of the product sales) or more. If it was a service that required a flat fee upfront, I just wouldn't believe I could afford it, if it truly worked - in my opinion. As well, nobody would believe in my product more then me, so the cheapest way for me to market the toy is to do that work myself. I couldn't afford to pay someone else to market it properly.
So from the services offered that cost people $ 6,000 - $18,000 - In my opinion, I would gladly pay up to $ 1,500 for a representation (color sketch) of the toy, a copyright filing in the US and Canada and a provisional patent in the USA. (if needed)
What you can do about this?
I am sure that there are invention help, or invention resource companies out there that provide good value.
1) Please be sure to Google the name of the company you're looking to work with and type the word "scam". So Google " company name scam" or " company name problems" and see what comes up. There are bound to be some complaints you find but that is the same for any company. You just don't want to find an overwhelming amount.
2) Check their BBB rating. Search the BBB website and look at their rating and how many complaints they have against them. A company should have an A+ or at least an A rating. You can also see why the complaints were filed. Again, it's not odd for a company to have one or two complaints (they go away after 36 months normally) but having 14 complaints is very serious, in my opinion.
3) Ask for references. You want to speak to a few past clients and hear their story. I'm not sure how you could tell if they were fake names, or people paid to tell you positive things, but I'm guessing your gut will be able to tell in my opinion.
I hope this page is helpful and prevents more people getting ripped off, in my opinion.