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Scammers, users, and abusers

  1. Apr 27, 2007 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    I finally busted a guy who has been abusing our [professionsal] friendship for years. For a long time I was pretty sure that this was the case - that he was a user and abuser - but I could never catch him red-handed. What really threw me was a job that he brought me years ago. It turned out to be a good job - ~$10K - and so he was ranked rather high on my list of partners early on. Even then I suspected that he only brought the job to me because he didn't realize that it would be so large, and that had he known, he would have taken it to another person [an old friend], but without any good evidence to the contrary, I had to assume that he was being a good partner. So, since then I have provided a good many hours of free tech support for him and his customers.

    But after eight years the question one has to ask is this: What have you done for me lately? So, with great reservation I have continued to support him, and recently I met with him and a customer on what was supposed to be a good job. Turned out to be a sham where he was trying to dump his job on me; probably because he doesn't know how to support his own product. When I asked who was going to pay the bill, no one ever called back. So I called his saleman who said they would handle this but more was coming later. Then I learned through the grapevine what else had happened: They never went or called the customer back, and they left me looking like a complete ass who simply never showed up. This is about the worst offense possible in my business - to not show up.

    What he doesn't know is that I already have another partner on the inside with his customer - a person with a large incentive to make my old buddy look like an idiot. :rofl:

    Life for me is 90% trying not to get screwed. It is dog eat dog out there.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2007 #2
    What service do you provide to customers? What is it that you do? Sounds intriguing in a cloak and dagger sort of way.
     
  4. Apr 27, 2007 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    I do industrial automation: engineering, programming, consulting. I often work closely with people who sell the technology or build the equipment used in industry. Since this often involves innovations and new technology, it can be very hush hush and fiercely competitive.
     
  5. Apr 27, 2007 #4

    baywax

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    Best insurance is to be self-sufficient. And the best recourse is to be successful. This way you're not in the same restaurants/bars/limos/ as the parasitic scammers. Especially if they can't make it with out you which is what will separate them from you in the first place.
     
  6. Apr 27, 2007 #5
    stay professional, drop scammers like a hot potato even if they're making you money. you know the saying give em an inch and they'll take a mile, so true. if seen company's who rip off their suppliers and they think for the time being that they got over then wonder later on why no one will do business later on. when it comes to money don't give them the chance to be ambiguous.

    edit: you know i've wondered whether i should even waste my time at the patent office and hire an attorney who might just as well pass off my idea to a friend.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2007
  7. Apr 27, 2007 #6

    baywax

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    Gee, what's the idea?:devil: :wink: :devil:
     
  8. Apr 27, 2007 #7
    perpetual motion machine :wink:
     
  9. Apr 27, 2007 #8

    Moonbear

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    If they did, it would be malpractice. It would also get them disbarred for breach of attorney-client privilege. And, lastly, nobody would EVER hire them again if they did that.
     
  10. Apr 27, 2007 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    As for the invention game, I've played around with this since my early teens, and many of my customers now are developing new products or systems, so although I'm certainly no expert I do have a bit of exposure.

    For many years and perhaps still true, Caddock Electronics produced some of the highest precision resistors on the market. Part of their secret was that they never patented the process and no one could figure out how to reproduce it. In fact they purposely never patented for this reason and they continued to dominate that niche of the market long after the patent would have expired. An interesting case to be sure.

    Based on my limited exposure to the world of patent protection, it seems that there are four central issues: First, when you file for a patent, you tell everyone exactly what you're doing. In most cases something like a 10% change is sufficient to avoid patent infringement problems, so patent protection becomes difficult unless the device is very unique. Next, if your patent is violated, it is not always easy to know and it is expensive to do anything about it. Thirdly, it is often cheaper to steal technology than it is to do the R&D, so the incentive to steal and pay the piper later is certainly there. And perhaps worst of all, lawyers are very expensive. Most people can't afford to pay for years of legal fees, and most inventions won't bring lawyers offering free services. If the idea really is worth millions and millions of dollars, you can be sure to expect deep pockets to try to outlast you in court. It is not a game for the timid.

    As a rule, billion dollar ideas are a dime a dozen - from what I've seen, most people don't understand that manufacturing and sales is usually where the wheels hit the road. For example, some years ago when I was still tinkering with the inventions game, I came up with the idea of making a toy phone that would allow parents and others to leave messages. For example, dial 9 and you get grandpa saying hello, that sort of thing. The timing seemed perfect because voice chips of a practical size were just getting cheap, and cell phones were really catching on. A toy cell phone with recordable messages seemed well timed. So I looked into manufacturing and selling this. It turns out that in order to get into the competitive toy market, one has to invest in the entire inventory for Christmas 2000, for example, in 1997. And one has to invest in something like a million units. Then you get to hope that the toy will sell, and you still have pay for marketing. Too rich for my blood!!!

    Patent, pffffft, what use. Nine times out of ten I'd say it's not worth it. In many cases and IMHO, here's the real trick: If its not patented, just start making it and selling it. Then no one can patent it. Expect a year or two advantage and then a competitive market. And more likely than not, you can produce and sell your product successfully without ever getting a patent.

    But every once in a while people do hit the jackpot, so I don't mean to say that it's impossible, it's just much more difficult if you're not a large company already.

    For the record, I have invented a few things that really took off, but none from my bench. Ideas are often a matter of timing. For example, I effectively had a working set of sound cancellation head phones, like those made by Bose, on my kitchen table over twenty-five years ago. Also had designs back then for a sound cancellation muffler like that first used by Saturn cars. Also invented the pause for live TV back in the early eighties. The problem is, so did about a thousand other people. Large companies already knew about these ideas, they were just waiting until the idea was practical to market. Only the small-timers like me were wasting their time. It was too soon. The technology was too expensive. But the big guys knew exactly when the market would break.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2007
  11. Apr 28, 2007 #10

    Moonbear

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    Actually, if you have a good idea, but not the money to market it, a patent is a good way to go, assuming you have the money to get the patent (if you want a good patent that will be enforceable if someone tries to infringe, you need good lawyers to write it...the cheap ones get you what you pay for). You never have to make the product, you can then sell the licensing rights to people who are willing to make it.

    There's actually another group of people who make all their money suing people for infringement of patents. For example, if someone had an idea for something and actually had it documented, and then someone else patented it later, in the US (and I don't think any other country), the original inventor can supercede a patent and have the patent transferred to them if they can prove they invented it first. It's really tough to prove that, because how many people think to document those ideas as they come to them, but once in a while it happens. Often, the original inventor isn't the one who bothers, but there are some people who go around finding them, buying exclusive licenses from them that allow them to enforce any claims, and then they are the ones that file the litigation. Yeah, it seems pretty shady and underhanded, because the person who ends up making the most money is someone who neither invented the product nor patented it.

    Once in a blue moon, they'll take a case on contingency, but it has to be something the lawyers are very certain they will be able to win. If you're fighting a corporation with deep pockets, that might be the only way a small inventor can afford to fight it is if they really have a strong enough claim to convince good laywers from a firm that also has deep pockets to work on contingency.
     
  12. Apr 28, 2007 #11

    Astronuc

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    That's why there is a thing called a 'trade secret'. That is the technology that one does not tell others about.

    Ivan is correct. In order to get a patent, one does a lot of 'discloure', part of which is the background, and the other part is the set of details. The idea of the patent is to share the technology, i.e. provide the technology to the public, ostensibly for commercial gain. Also, in a patent, it is the claims which are the important part - that is what is protected.

    If a company patents a product or process, it will usually file surround patents dealing with components of the product or process, or patenting a process associated with a patented product.

    Ivan is also correct that others can take one's patent and 'improve' upon it, so as to cirumvent the original process - or people steal it outright. The problem there is that it is very expensive to sue those infringing upon one's patent, especially if the other party is a large company with cash and/or their own lawyers.

    One does not need a patent attorney. A qualified patent agent will suffice, and hopefully one who has integrity. Of course there are scammers, who will try to help one with one's invention, so stay away from them.
     
  13. Apr 28, 2007 #12

    turbo

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    Also, a foreign-based company can steal your patented process, put competing products into production and eat your lunch. If a company in China steals your idea, good luck trying to enforce your patent.
     
  14. Apr 28, 2007 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    I started to view the invention game differently when I met the former president and founder of The Inventors Workshop [at one time very large and may still be]. He was a friend of a friend, and my "friend" [turned out to be a scammer] was strongly urging me to join the group. When I asked the founder how many inventors from his org had made it big in the last thirty years, there was silence. Ultimately he admitted that the number was zero. I now believe that most if not all inventors assistance companies are a scam.
     
  15. Apr 28, 2007 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    And in many cases, in order to meet the market's price limits, you will have to have your product manufactured in....China.

    One more quick story. I knew a guy who invented Coleman style lantern mantels with a spring clip. Anyone who has tried to tie on a new mantel while in the dark can appreciate the value of this little patent. He even managed to get the product on the shelves at Walmart all over the West coast. When Coleman realized this patent was too simple to modify and avoid infringement issue, in order to elimate the competition, they threatened to pull ALL of their products out of Walmart. Doug's mantels were off the shelf the next day. AFAIK, that was the end of the business. And it is important to realize the years, blood sweat and tears, and the enormous financial investment that was lost in about a day.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2007
  16. Apr 29, 2007 #15

    Aether

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    Are you accusing Coleman and Walmart of conduct intended to "monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States"?

    http://uscode.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode15/usc_sec_15_00000002----000-.html
     
  17. Apr 29, 2007 #16

    baywax

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    Ah, the fail-safes of an ethical society.o:)
     
  18. Apr 29, 2007 #17

    turbo

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    My wife and I sold our old house to a born-again couple who home-school their 3 kids. They seemed nice enough and we gave them a break on the price. When they started running water and cleaning stuff, some water leaked through a split in the thin brass waste-and-overflow line from the upstairs tub and dampened the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom. The woman called me and said that there was a leak that I didn't tell her about, and I sent over the plumber who had winterized the house for me. He told her that since the house had been unheated for the first winter in about 30 years, the extreme cold could have caused the split, or it might have split when they started running hot water through the line. Since that drain would be mostly full of air during showers, and the split was on the top of that pipe, it is possible that the split was there earlier, but had not leaked. Anyway, he asked her if she wanted him to repair the line (I had told her that if the repair cost was reasonable that I would foot the bill) and she said no, just tape it up - we're going to remodel the bathrooms anyway. The plumber told her and me that the repair would be about $100. A few weeks later, she sent me a bill for $350 for two new mixing valves. The existing ones were Delta's and were in great condition and they can be rebuilt for just a few dollars if needed, and they had nothing to do with the brass waste line anyway. A few months later, I got a nasty letter from a lawyer in Portland accusing me of non-disclosure of serious defects and damage, and threatening to sue me for $8500. The plumber said that he would gladly testify for me, so I fired back a letter accusing the lawyer of complicity in extortion and promising to have her "Christian" client slapped with perjury and extortion charges if she pursued the suit. Haven't heard another peep.

    I saw this "pious" young lady with her youngest daughter at a gardening shop last week and she grabbed the little girl and quickly ducked behind some displays until I left the lot. I can just imagine the exchange: "Mommy, why are we hiding?" "That's a bad man who doesn't like Mommy." A wolf wearing sheep's clothing, for sure.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2007
  19. Apr 29, 2007 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    No, I'm not accusing anyone of anything. I should have said allegedly and according to people involved in this about fifteen years ago. My bad. Also, sometimes knowing and proving are two different things entirely.

    I had a poli-sci prof who was also a lawyer. He often emphasized the following: "The law" is not what is written in a book. "The law" is what actually happens.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2007
  20. Apr 30, 2007 #19

    Aether

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    Okay.
    That's right.
     
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