© By Stephen Paul Gnass

Spotting the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I usually explain that I can't comment on any specific company [because several scams have already sued some good inventor organizations that listed them], but I think that I can help you figure out if a company is a scam.

What I try to do is to teach people how to spot the wolf in sheep's clothing. No matter how tempting it is, if a company you are in contact with operates in the specific way described below, offering to do everything, I would suggest that you run the other way.

Does the company that you are in contact with perform all or most of the following things?

A Short Questionnaire to Spot Scams

    Making Initial Contact:
  1. Do they advertise to the general public on mass media like TV, radio, magazine classifieds? __Yes __No
  2. Do they send out a "Free inventors kit" in the mail? __yes __No
  3. Does this inventor kit include a pre-signed "confidentiality" (non-disclosure) form that "you" have to fill out and return to them? __Yes __No

    Services They Provide:
  4. Do they evaluate ideas (or imply they do)? __Yes __No
    [they start with an initial free review assessment or charge a fee of $200-700 for an evaluation report - this is the beginning hook.]
  5. Do they perform patent searches? __Yes __No
  6. Do they file patents? __Yes __No
  7. Do they promote inventions? __Yes __No
    [part of this is claiming that they show your invention in numerous tradeshows around the world, including their own]
  8. Do they submit and introduce inventions to companies or industry? __Yes __No
  9. Do they act as a licensing agent to negotiate deals for royalties? __Yes __No
  10. Do they market inventions? __Yes __No
  11. Does the company charge fees in the thousands of dollars [usually anywhere from $4,000-20,000] for all of these functions? __Yes __No

[Please note that any "one" of these services aren't bad in and of themselves and are fine when offered by "one" company. It's when "one" company offers to perform "all" these services, that you should head out the door and hit the road like the road runner!]

The We-Do-It-All-For-You Companies

If you answered "YES" to all or most of these questions, we have found that there's a 99% chance that it's a scam. Basically the company is offering to do "EVERYTHING" for you as a one-stop-shop where you don't have to do anything yourself, and these are high alert warning signs that it's a scam. [We recommend that you get the full report with detailed information about this checklist titled "We-Do-It-All-For-You Warning Signs" at NCIO's Scambusters web section.

No company that we know of, that claims to do all these things, has ever brought success to inventors (and success by FTC standards only means generating more money for the inventor than the inventor paid to the firm - in other words, theoretically, if you pay $10,000 and you make at least $10,001 back).

Are There Legitimate We-Do-It-All-For-You Companies?

Well, it's true that there are a very, very, very few [you can probably count them on one hand] legitimate companies, like Arthur D. Little, which do take products in the idea stage and develop them from idea to market without charging any fees. But because they are going to invest substantial monies into the patent as well as research and development, they are SOOOOOOOOO picky that only a rare product even gets picked. So, with Arthur D. Little, there's a 99.999999% chance that your new idea concept will be "rejected" and you shouldn't pin all your hopes on getting in with one of these few companies. This is in direct contrast with the scam firms, where there's a 99.999999% certainty that your idea will be "approved and accepted", and they claim to "do it all for you" as long as you pay them thousands in fees.

Update: Arthur D. Little, a reputable company which was around for at least 100 years, went bankrupt a few years ago.


In my experience of over 30 years in business and over 20 years working with inventors, there is no such thing as an "invention promotion firm" or "invention marketing firm" that takes an idea completely from idea concept to the market.

Inventing is basically an "a-la-carte" process, meaning that you will be picking and using independent specialized vendors for the different jobs you will need performed as you go along. This may come as a shock to many budding inventors - but we believe that there is no magic company that can competently and completely handle the whole process from A through Z. Until proven otherwise, we have not seen success from any invention development "factories". In reality, there is no single magic contact that will "do it all for you" when you're in the idea stage. Oh yes, you will find many companies that **claim** that they will do it all for you for fees - and these are precisely the companies that are the scams.

The Magic Person

The main key to understand is that actually it is "you", the inventor, who are the magic person that will drive your idea's progress [or not]. You are the pivotal person in the driver's seat, and need to steer your idea to success. That's why it's so important for you to learn the ropes and get educated about the process of inventing.

As the decision maker, you will eventually need to contract with different services/companies depending on where you're at with your idea. For example, you will hire a prototype maker only "if" you need a prototype, and "when" you need one, and with an expert in your invention's category. You will hire a patent attorney "when" you need one, and with a patent attorney of your choice who has the proper specialization for your product. And when you're ready to offer your invention for sale or license or are seeking an agent or product scout, you will sign up for a trade show, or advertise your product on an online listing service that is targeted to these types of people, such as the Invention Connection® Cybershow, in order to make "contact" with licensees, agents, distributors, investors, etc.

Shopping is Your Responsibility

Yes, you'll have to shop for services and compare prices and quality of services. Yes, you'll have to interview companies to determine which ones will meet your needs the best, and yes, this will take a lot of time, energy and dedication. And if you're new at it, you'll also have to learn all about these services first and how they work, before you even go shopping.

This is all part of the inventing process. So before you begin, it's important to ask yourself whether you're willing to do whatever it takes to give your invention the attention from you that it will need.


You have probably heard of:
1) licensing agents that represent inventors products and who then find a company that licenses the invention and pays royalties to the inventor or
2) product scouts who are seeking new products for their client companies. 3) companies that directly license products

It's true that there are licensing agents and product scouts that help inventors get licensing deals and DO NOT charge any upfront fees and only take a percentage of any deal that is successfully negotiated.

KEY POINT: But before getting to the stage where an idea can be represented by one of these people to be licensed or sold, there are many preliminary things that the inventor needs to do "first" before these licensing agents or product scouts will even seriously consider the invention.

They generally do not get involved with idea concepts that are unresearched, unprotected, untested, and which are still basically figments of the individual's imagination, like "Flash, I've got a great idea and I just know it must be worth millions". This is the wrong time to seek out a licensing agent or licensing deal. These idea concepts are initially worth "squat", they have zero value. That's where the phrase "ideas are a dime a dozen" came from. Anybody can have an idea, but it's only when someone does something with the idea that it becomes valuable.

A legitimate licensing agent or product scout who will be investing his time, energy and money into an invention, doesn't want to deal with someone who just has a concept where the potential is based on only a gut feeling and wishful thinking.

So initially, the inventor needs to do the research and development work, like making sure that the idea is properly protected, making sure that the product has a market, making sure the product works, etc., testing and perfecting the design and function of the invention, and gathering all the needed statistics and proof to present to potential licensees or investors.

The Secret to Spotting Scams

You need to understand this key point, which is that the accountability and responsibility for your success lies in your own hands. If you realize that you are the key person who has to do the legwork to initially protect, dig out and research information about your idea's market, and test the product, BEFORE you try to find someone to license it or take it to market - you will have grasped the secret to your own success as well as spotting scams.

Then you will clearly be able to spot any scam companies that offer to take your undeveloped idea concept, and want to charge you thousands of dollars to perform all the work, including evaluation, patent search, getting a patent, marketing it, licensing it, etc. where all you need to do is just sit back and wait for millions to roll into your mailbox. But in reality, you'll end up sitting back and just waiting... waiting... waiting... waiting...

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Stephen Paul Gnass is founder of, Executive Director of the National Congress of Inventor Organizations [NCIO] and an inventors advocate. Mr. Gnass speaks on the subject of the "Business of Inventing" [tm] and has had his articles reprinted in various magazines. As Senior Consultant with the Gnass Group, he consults independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. He can be emailed at or visit www.businessofinventin



A SPECIAL NOTE: Complimentary Brainstorm:
If you're further along the path of inventing and are ready to launch your product, and need assistance in determining whether to license your idea or build a company around your invention, I'll be more then happy to offer you a Complimentary Brainstorm, no obligation. For a Complimentary Brainstorm, please be sure to include your phone number with area code and your time zone [continental U.S.] with the best times to call you back in your email. If you're in Canada or another country, email us for special instructions.
Sincerely Stephen Paul Gnass

P.S. I offer additional brainstorming as part of the cyber- exhibiting program. Or, if you have special projects or problems and you need some brainstorming, I also offer a-la- carte consulting sessions with a special rate for inventors.



Situations like these, that I describe in these articles, are snapshots at the time that I write them. Things may change, for example, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rules or laws may change, etc. In addition to the constant research that we're doing, I would like to personally speak with anyone that has had a similar or related experience. Feel free to email me at and include the best time to get in touch with you.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal counsel or financial services. The information provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge, and we are not liable for any omissions or incorrect information. It is the responsibility of the reader to verify any legal information with appropriate professionals. If you need specific legal assistance, we recommend that you contact an attorney or accountant.


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