Plaintiff Etta Calhoun had an idea for an invention, and she was attracted by InventHelp commercials, which claimed that the company had “more than 9,000 companies who have agreed to review ideas” it submits. However, the complaint for this class action alleges that InventHelp maintains a fraudulent web of companies that do nothing but defraud would-be inventors while escaping liability.
The class for this action is all persons and entities in the US who bought goods and/or services from the defendants in this case who were contacted by the defendants from 2010 to the present.
Calhoun’s idea was bedding printed with quotations from Christian scripture. The complaint claims that such bedding was already available, but when she met with an InventHelp representative in February 2012, the complaint says the woman told her that her idea was original and an excellent opportunity for profit.
Calhoun agreed to a “Basic Information Package Report.” She could not afford the $780 payment, but the company offered her a loan through a seemingly independent company and she accepted.
She also signed two contradictory disclosures. One said that the total number of clients InventHelp had contracted with in the past five years was 8,095 and that the number who had received more money than they had paid out to InventHelp was 38; the other said that the total number of persons who had contracted with the company since 1985 was 53,037 and that the number who had received more money than they had paid out to InventHelp was zero.
After this, the company repeatedly urged Calhoun to move forward with their services, the complaint claims. At a meeting in March, they presented her with a “Submission Agreement” for $9,950. Calhoun could not afford it, but the complaint says the company repeatedly called her about it. A representative called her idea was “brilliant”; another offered her a $1,000 discount, and at last she accepted to borrow more money to pay the fee.
That was supposed to include a New Product Submission Brochure and submission of her invention to twenty companies on a “Data Bank” list. The complaint claims that this list is a sham—that some of the companies do not exist, others are spelled to resemble existing companies, and still others have no existing relationship with InventHelp. What the complaint finds most disturbing, it says, is that a few of the companies have agreed to review ideas, but when they express interest, InventHelp does not even respond.
Calhoun never received anything for the money she paid to the company, the complaint claims, and she is now being pushed to repay the loan. The complaint alleges violation of the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation, among other things.