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Scam Watch

September 09, 2007|David Colker

The pitch: Get your invention into the marketplace!

The reality: Few inventions actually make it to market, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But that's not the story you'll hear from unscrupulous promotion firms that promise to ease the way for budding inventors.

FTC action: The agency announced last week that a federal court had ordered the Patent & Trademark Institute to pay $60 million for violating a previous order banning it from misrepresenting services offered to amateur inventors. The company's owners couldn't be reached for comment about the order by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The charges: The FTC said the company offered to evaluate inventions for a fee of about $1,000. The evaluation was inevitably positive, and then the inventor was offered -- for fees as low as $5,000 and as high as $45,000 -- assistance in bringing the item to market. But after the money was paid, the FTC said, little or no assistance was given.

Info: FTC tips on spotting invention frauds are available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs. --

--David Colker

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