We receive many questions from inventors about companies that we can recommend. Some of these questions also ask if a certain company is on the “up and up.” These questions are extremely difficult for us to answer. As a nonprofit, we need to refrain from endorsing one company over another or making a judgement about a company’s ability to complete what they promise in their advertisements. For anyone wanting to know more about a particular company our best advice is to take the time to do some simple research about the company.
Executive Director, John Calvert has compiled some helpful tips and sources to help you research potential companies.
General Internet Search: The first step to take when researching a company is to search the company name on “Google” or any other search engine. An additional search using the company name followed by the word “review” will usually bring additional information about the company.
USPTO and FTC: Check the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov) and the Federal Trade Commission website (www.ftc.gov) if you want to know if a company has any complaints filed against them. When using the USPTO website enter “complaints” in the search window and look for published complaints. The USPTO also has some good information on invention marketing companies under their Inventor and Entrepreneur Resources page. When using the FTC website you can enter the company name in their search window to learn if there has been anything issued involving that company.
State Attorney General Offices: Additional areas to search are the attorney general office in your state and the state where the company does business. Most AG offices usually have a consumer affairs office that keeps track of complaints about companies. Click here for the National Association of Attorneys General Directory for contact information.
What about the Better Business Bureau? As CNN Money reports, even the BBB will admit its rating process isn’t perfect. It says that its ratings are not endorsements and that they don’t mean that a business’ products or services have been evaluated. This does not mean that all BBB ratings are wrong, but these ratings should not be the only source of information you use to evaluate a company. The BBB can be a helpful resource, look up the company and read through complaints filed as an indicator.
READ THE CONTRACT!
We can not stress this enough. READ THE CONTRACT!! If you decide a company can help you in moving your idea to the marketplace, we suggest you take time to read any contract completely and ask questions about everything in the contract. What is in the contract is what you will be required to do and what the company is legally bound to deliver. Do not listen to what the salesman tells you – if what you were told is not in the contract it will not be something the company will do. Make sure that what you expect to be done is written down in the contract. If you choose to have any attorney review the contract be sure to listen to the advice and know that they are working on your behalf. It may be hard to hear what they are suggesting, but it might save you from learning a lesson you don’t want to learn, down the road.
By doing a little homework before you contact a company or sign a contract for services you might save yourself both time and money. There is nothing worse than having a good idea go to waste because someone does not do their due diligence.