The Federal Trade Commission has charged the operators of an invention-promotion scam, World Patent Marketing, with deceiving consumers and suppressing complaints about the company by using threats of criminal prosecution against dissatisfied customers.
At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the Florida-based scheme and froze its assets pending litigation. The agency seeks to permanently stop the defendants’ practices and return money to consumers.
“This case is about protecting innovators, the engine of a thriving economy,” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said. “The defendants promised to promote people’s inventions and took thousands of dollars, but provided almost no service in return. Then they added insult to injury by threatening people who complained.”
According to the FTC, consumers paid Scott Cooper and his companies, World Patent Marketing Inc. and Desa Industries Inc., thousands of dollars to patent and market their inventions based on bogus “success stories” and testimonials promoted by the defendants. But after they strung consumers along for months or even years, the defendants did not deliver what they promised. Instead, many customers ended up in debt or lost their life savings with nothing to show for it.
The FTC also alleges that the defendants used various unfair tactics, including threats of legal action, to discourage consumers from publishing truthful or non-defamatory negative reviews about the defendants and their services. For example, one customer who sought a refund and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau received a letter from the defendants’ lawyer. The letter stated that seeking a refund was extortion under Florida law and, “since you used email to make your threats, you would be subject to a federal extortion charge, which carries a term of imprisonment of up to two years and potential criminal fines.”
The FTC thanks the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Better Business Bureau of New York, and the Better Business Bureau serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean for their assistance in this matter.
The Commission vote approving the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on March 7, 2017.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
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