A Miami federal judge froze the assets of an invention-promotion company that allegedly scammed thousands of prospective entrepreneurs by falsely claiming connections to Target, Walmart and the creator of the Snuggie blanket.
The Federal Trade Commission persuaded U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles to issue a preliminary injunction against World Patent Marketing, which offered inventors help securing patents and promoting their products.
“It is especially troubling that in a little over two years, WPM had nearly $26 million in gross revenue, yet no identifiable customers realized a profit, sold a meaningful number of units, or entered into significant licensing agreements as a result of using WPM’s services,” Gayles wrote in his Aug. 16 order. “That [the] defendants’ services may have provided some value to customers is of no consequence.”
World Patent Marketing offered inventors an approximately $1,300 report on their prospective companies, said Jonathan Perlman, court-appointed receiver in the case.
“The really big hit would come in after you received that report, which invariably said that your idea was both patentable and likely to be profitable, regardless of how nonpatentable and silly, or the fact that that product may already exist — none of those things seemed to matter,” said Perlman, an equity partner at Genovese Joblove & Battista in Miami.
The company, which had a few dozen employees in South Florida and Chicago, would then pitch a menu of services including obtaining a patent and licensing deals for the product, working with manufacturers and marketing. Those packages ran from around $9,000 to $65,000, according to the court’s order.
The FTC alleges World Patent Marketing drew customers through a number of deceptive marketing tactics, including advertising that offered help obtaining a “global patent” when no such thing exists, and feigning affiliations with major brands.
The company’s website claimed it helped customers make deals with Target, Walmart, Walgreens and Best Buy, according to the court order, and displayed a paid ad that aired once at 6 a.m. as a History Channel-produced segment. A company press release touted a nonexistent “partnership” with the makers of perhaps the world’s most well-publicized couch-potato garment, the Snuggie.
Perlman said the company entered receivership with under $400,000 in the bank, and now he and forensic accountants are working to track down additional funds. He determined World Patent Marketing would make no profit if it operated lawfully, given that it didn’t have the special expertise or relationships it claimed. Most of its revenue came from a contract patent agent who the judge found “typically submitted deficient [patent] applications or applications for which she did not receive prior customer consent.”
World Patent Marketing is represented by Michael Pineiro, Daniel Rashbaum and Jeffrey Marcus of Marcus Neiman & Rashbaum in Miami. Pineiro declined to comment on the order.
The FTC’s attorneys are Colleen Robbins, James Evans and Jody Goodman, all Washington-based. Perlman is represented by his Genovese Joblove colleagues Jesus Suarez, John Arrastia and Heather Harmon.
The parties have requested a two-week trial in October 2018.