A Scary Invention Submission Form

Before submitting your invention to Spectrum Brands be sure to read the agreement carefully.

In looking for a potential licensee for a kitchen invention I came across Spectrum Brands. They own a wide range of brands in many categories and seemed to be a good fit for one of our inventions. They have a nice welcoming page for inventors that asks for contact information, description of the invention and so on. Since this particular invention is already in production with issued patent and issued trademark I wasn't worried about disclosure or really much of anything. I filled out page one and clicked along to page 2. Page two asked me to check off each of 14 statements. I let my mouse gallop along to click agreement with statements 1-5, statements that are common in all non-disclosure agreements. Then I got to 6 and 7. My jaw dropped, I pulled the reins hard on my mouse and and said "WHOA!!!" Here's what I saw:

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"6. I understand and agree to assign and do hereby assign to Spectrum Brands Inc. all my right, title and interest in and to the ideas and/or materials in this submission."

"7. I understand and agree that upon submission, Spectrum Brands Inc. shall be the sole and exclusive owner of this idea. Spectrum Brands Inc. will then have the unrestricted right to retain, use, disclose, license and sell this submitted idea and/or any accompanying materials."

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It is likely that those statements are intended to cover the butts of Spectrum's lawyers and not to steal inventions. The other statements on the page seem to imply as much. However, words matter and the words in those statements say that I agree to give my invention exclusively to Spectrum for free and that they can do whatever they want with it - even though I have issued patents. No way am I ever going to agree to that. I don't think any inventor should.

    Spectrum Brands owns the following brands:

    • PET PRODUCTS: Good'n'Fun, DreamBone, SmartBones, Dingo, Nature's Miracle, 8 in 1 Brand Products, Furminator, ProSense, Ecotrition, IAMS (Europe), Eukanuba (Europe), Cutter, LitterMaid, Birdola, Wild Harvest, Tetra, Marineland, GloFish, Instant Ocean, Jungle
    • HARDWARE AND HOME IMPROVEMENT: Kwikset, Weiser, Baldwin, Pfister, National Hardware, Tell Manufacturing, EZSET
    • HOME AND GARDEN: Spectracide, Liquid Fence, Garden Safe, Hot Shot, Black Flag, Cutter, Repel
    • HOME AND PERSONAL CARE: Remington Black + Decker Appliances, Russell Hobbs, George Foreman, Breadman, Juiceman

    What I find particularly egregious about Spectrum's submission process is that first page seems to welcome inventors, but the second page indicates they don't want outside inventors at all. If the company doesn't want invention submissions they should say so up front. That's what Apple does and I respect them for it. Here's what Apple says at the top of its invention submission page:

    "Apple or any of its employees do not accept or consider unsolicited ideas, including ideas for new advertising campaigns, new promotions, new or improved products or technologies, product enhancements, processes, materials, marketing plans or new product names. Please do not send any original creative artwork, suggestions or other works. The sole purpose of this policy is to avoid potential misunderstandings or disputes when Apple's products or marketing strategies might seem similar to ideas submitted to Apple. So, please do not send your unsolicited ideas to Apple or anyone at Apple..."

    Apple goes on to say that if you persist they will own whatever you send. But they told you in advance to NOT send them your idea and they do NOT provide an invention submission form.

    A lot of companies choose to not work with outside inventors. That's completely reasonable. What's not reasonable is for a company to lure inventors into submitting their ideas when it is, in fact, closed to outside innovation.

    PS - If you're a Spectrum executive and want help in redesigning your invention submission program, please feel free to contact me at mike@inventioncity.com - we can design a program that insulates you from liability while being fair to inventors and giving you the opportunity to consider new product ideas.

    - Mike Marks


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