OKLAHOMA CITY - Leona Proctor calls her idea one of the best inventions since the light bulb, the Easy Clean Breakaway Fan.
Proctor took care of the patent protection and built the prototype with the help of a small business development center, then came time to promote her product.
“I saw it on TV,” Proctor said.
You've probably seen InventHelp's advertisements pop up on your TV screen.
For thousands of dollars, they'll help you evaluate, develop and market your product to companies.
Proctor signed up for a two-year contract and put down $1,500.
InventHelp whipped up a fancy looking book with mass-produced market data in it, plus supplied Proctor with a press release and a few rejection letters.
“It went to a trade show, a virtual trade show, but they never did send anything about the virtual trade show at all,” Proctor said.
“How it starts, typically television, late night TV, promise of free information,” said Dan Hoffman.
Hoffman serves on the board for Oklahoma Inventors Congress, a local group that supports and educates inventors.
He said companies will make lofty claims on TV and online.
“They'll size you up, see what you're working on, try to gain your confidence in their ability to place you in front of thousands of people who are potential marketers,” Hoffman said.
A spokesperson for InventHelp tells the In Your Corner team they posted Proctor's press release online and prepared and submitted descriptive materials to companies, however their contracts, disclosures and literature make it abundantly clear there are no promises of success or profit in this very difficult industry.
The In Your Corner bottom line:
- Ask lots of questions and be wary of companies that offer over the top promises or demand cash up-front.
- Ask them why they can't help you on a contingency basis.
“Understand the process,” Hoffman said. “Do your due diligence every step of the way.”
Proctor said she won't stop dreaming big.
“There's nothing like this on the market,” she said.
There are a number of useful resources out there for inventors, like the Oklahoma Inventors Congress.
You can also contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office about complaints against invention promoters and for inventor resources.