Questions? Comments? Please call: 610-642-1000

Invention: 27 Questions to Ask an Invention Marketing Company

Questions to ask an Invention Marketing Company Firm BEFORE spending any money with them.

By Jeffrey Dobkin

For over 15 years I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Inventors (a non-profit inventor self-help group), and am now the President of the Philadelphia Inventors Alliance. During this time I’ve seen lots of inventors horribly swindled by ruthless, unscrupulous scams under the title of invention marketing companies.  Here’s help: 27 Questions to ask an invention marketing firm.

In the interest of keeping inventors safe, I have written extensively about this and a lot of my writing can be found at under the Inventors link in the home page Navigation Bar.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who saw inventors get ripped off.

In 1999, the federal government passed a bill entitled “The Inventor Protection Act of 1999.” I’ve included it at the bottom of this post.

Over the years we’ve had many invention marketing firms request to speak to our group, or to email our members.  It’s not that easy – they go through the tough Jeff Dobkin vetting process.

Not many make it because, well… they don’t deserve it. Their processes range from no help to inventors, to a lousy contract that won’t allow the inventor to make any money, to a direct rip-off of the inventor’s money.  Mostly the last one.

To prevent this, first —

I ask to see a typical contract they offer inventors.

Most of the time I get the same answer: “Each inventor and each circumstance is different and blah blah blah….” Yea, I get it.

That’s the first RED FLAG they send.

Still, I always ask to see what they say. It’s a time for the good guys to shine! And the bad guys to fast-dance and side step.  Which they do, some of them are pretty good at it.  Really good at it!

They may not want to send me a particular client’s contract as a matter of confidentiality and I’m OK with that. But hey – for them to say they have no sample contract or typical contract? Really? Are you kidding me?

They’re saying in effect: we write a brand new contract from scratch each time an inventor walks in the door.

Hummmm… smells funny, don’t you think?

If the invention marketing firm serves inventors as clients every day, day in, day out, I’m pretty sure they must have some standard contracts or standard parts of contracts… especially if they’ve written hundreds of inventor contracts (or thousands of inventor contracts).

Seems kind of unlikely each contract would be new and written from scratch. I would think some clauses would be standard across all contracts. So… let’s see them.

Next, I ask about their standard fees.

Some fees would also be standard, so let’s see them as well.

Yea yea, every inventor is different. I understand that.

BUT: if they don’t show me anything at this point, something ain’t right… and they don’t get to speak to our group.

In my own business I offer writing, marketing and advertising agency services to clients. Is each client different? Sure. Are some parts of my services priced in the same range every time. Yep, every time. Do I have a standard billing rate? Yes, I do. I send a printed price sheet to people who ask for one. Definitely yes. It’s called being transparent – and having nothing to hide.

Writing direct mail letters is a large part of my business. After writing 1,000 letters for clients, I can comfortably say a letter takes me about 8 hours to research, write, edit and design. And typically costs the client $850. If I could figure out how to do it in less time and charge less I would.

Are there some variables in writing letters for a diverse group of direct mail houses? Sure. But, this is usually what a direct mail letter from me costs. And if you called me up and asked what a letter written by me costs, I’d tell you on the phone at that time they typically cost $850.

So after handling hundreds (or thousands) of inventor clients, I would think some basic costs of different services would be known… and in the interest of transparency would be available to anyone who called and inquired. If not, an even bigger red flag goes up. Really? A firm that doesn’t know it’s own prices, rates or charges?

If an invention marketing firm won’t give you any typical charges, I’m going to say you should take a pass. I would.

OK, you still want to stick around.

Before you hand them your first hard earned dollar,
you actually do need to know some approximate costs.
Like, their approximate costs for their initial tasks and the way they bill.

· They should know that. And be able and open to tell you.

· You should know that as well – up front.

· You should know what to expect.

Even at worst, they should give you approximate costs or a realistic range of charges for their initial services. You also should know exactly, specifically what you are going to get for your money.

Otherwise you are saying to the invention marketing firm:
“I don’t know what you’re going to do, I don’t know what you’re going to charge me, I don’t know your billing rate, and I don’t know what my overall cost is going to be. And I have no idea what I’m going to get, or what I’ll pay for, for, well… whatever I get. But, I’m OK with that. How much should I make out this initial check for?”

To me, that isn’t realistic. You have nothing – no plan of product development, no marketing plan, no idea of costs, no quote, no goals and no baseline to measure success or failure.

Before hiring any marketing firm, here are some more tough questions to ask:

• What is your goal for me, and for my invention?

• If it’s product development, what will the deliverable be? Finished manufacturing prototype? Samples? Specifications to make the product? Real products I can sell? And how many?

Note: A “manufacturing prototype” is very different from initial prototype which is handmade from local parts and shows proof the concept will work. It’s also different from a traditional prototype, which will show the product in a good developed stage that can be shown to manufacturers, investors, or potential licensors, but can’t be used to specify parts or show the tolerances necessary for commercial manufacturing.

• If the marketing company is actually going to market this invention, what is the initial run?

• What is the marketing plan.  (Let’s see it!)
• And if the marketing campaign you create is successful (whatever numbers we call success), what will I have to invest, and what is the target $$$ for me to get back financially?

• Is the goal to sell one?

Is the goals to sell ten? To sell 1,000? 10,000?
To get a distributor to buy thousands of them?
Get placed in 50 catalogs?
To license it out?
What is the revenue goal?
And what is my financial investment budget necessary to reach this goal?

• If your goal is to get the product licensed, who are the target firms, how will you contact them and who inside the firms are you going to contact? How many firms will you contact?

What contract will you offer them? What do you typically present to people who are looking to license the invention? What offer are you going to propose? And what license are you going to send them? (NOTE: It would NOT be in your best interest to ask every potential licensor for them to write the contract, or say “Hey, send me your best offer!”)

Can you show me several product inventions that you’ve licensed out?

What will my monetary investment be to reach this goal? Or to initially start.

What do you anticipate my total costs will be?

And the costs for each step on the way?

I don’t think there is any medium sized or large company in the world that will launch a product
and not know the initial cost, total cost or what they expect in sales.
Every company, every product has a budget and a revenue goal. Every!

I could go on… but you get the idea. There should be a lot of forethought that goes into any product launch. A firm that does this for a living should know the steps, and the costs. If there isn’t an overall plan they can discuss intelligently with you, something’s wrong.

Then I ask:

“Can you summarize what you just said and send the proposal to me in a letter. Thanks.”

Asking for a proposal summary in a letter is very important.

Getting one is even more crucial. When a prospective client for my own firm asks for a proposal, I send a short letter of what the proposed work is, what I’ll charge them (a firm quote or a range of costs) and what will be delivered (deliverables).

Then ask the invention marketing firm: Let’s talk about your costs:
Costs are a big part of the picture.  Never forget this – it’s your money.
If they say they don’t know their own costs, WTF?  Hang up the phone. Game over.

Tougher Questions:

What is the average cost for your services? However they charge, they can tell you about it here.

Overall, what is the average spend most people invest in your services.

They should know this!

If not, tell them “OK, please take a look at your last 20 clients financial spreadsheets, and see what they’ve spent, then let me know. Go ahead, I’ll wait!

Ask about Billing

Do you bill by hourly – and what is the charge/hour?
Do you bill by project?
What are your typical projects, and their typical costs?

Note: if they don’t know this, or won’t tell you, just walk away. What kind of firm would not know their own processes? Or costs.

It would be like going into a brake and muffler shop and asking what it costs for new brakes, and the manager says he doesn’t know, and can’t give you an estimate. And he’s not sure of the process of he’s going to use to repair them. Would you say OK to this? No… me neither.

Ask what are your costs for the following services:

• Patent

• Market research
And what is this exactly? What do they do?

• Marketing
What do you do under the banner of “Marketing”?  What is their plan?
Be specific. Ask to see a marketing plan they’ve done for another invention.

I’m NOT talking about them saying how large the industry is – that number doesn’t do you – the inventor – any good. Because an industry is huge doesn’t insure your success.  The automotive industry is huge, yet people selling products to that industry fail every day.

If they say “We introduce your product to industry!” run away. I’ve owned a marketing agency for 30 years and still have no idea what this means.  That’s not a plan.  That’s a broad statement with no meaning.

If they say “Market Research” ask what that means specifically.

Market research can mean anything from “I asked a couple of friends about it after a few beers at a bar last night,” to “we send out a couple dozen brochures to company owners to see if they like it,” to, well… anything. Ask what the research project is, the hours it will take, and project costs.

Ask the goal you are reaching for to measure success or failure.

Without this stated (preferably in writing), you have no idea if you are succeeding or failing.

If the product looks like it’s going to fail in some way, when will they know and when will they tell you? This can be because of poor design (product just won’t work,) structurally faulty (will fail in the field after production,) in marketing (all the distributors and retailers are tied up with similar products); cost wise (your product will cost $50 to manufacture – driving the retail price up to over $200 – and other similar products in the industry are selling at retail for $25. If that happens I’m pretty sure your product will have no sales.

Then – get these proposals in writing.

When you get things in writing it clarifies everything. Then later when things get rough, you have a ready reference to what they said. It’s not like an oral agreement where the firm can deny they stated anything or that you must have misunderstood what they said.

Look, I can understand if someone won’t do all this for a contract that will net them $200 bucks. But if you are going to spend several thousand dollars – sometime tens of thousands – with them, they should show good faith and send you some plans and quotes in writing. Period.

It’s called a proposal.

Submitting business proposals is a standard way of doing business.  I write proposals all the time.

Every client, every job.

I have standard proposals I use for most things, and just lay in the parameters and costs.

If I create an ad for a client, I send a proposal first:

“I will create an ad this size by this size, it includes photography (one photograph), copy and typesetting and will cost you this much. You will receive a rough draft to make any changes, then the final ad in print and in an electronic PDF file. Payment terms are…”

It’s all above board, clients know what they are getting, at what cost. I know what they are getting and how much and when I will be paid.

Brochures and literature:

Lots of invention marketing firms offer brochures of inventors proposed products because it’s easy and they make a lot of money doing this. It’s low risk for them and they can bill unsuspecting inventors very very high bills.  Most now offer website pages because it also is wildly profitable for them.

If you want them to create a brochure or web page and host it, get a quote first.

I feel it’s usually better to get brochures, literature and web pages from an advertising agency. They’re better at it, and their costs are not mushed in with “marketing” and product development costs so you can’t figure out what you are paying for each item or service.

If you think the invention marketing firm can do a good job with literature and website stuff I’m OK with that. Simply ask: ‘please send exact costs, and several samples of the brochures you’ve done for other clients. And a link to the web pages you’ve created.’  That way you’ll know what you’re getting before you spend money on something that may not be any good or of good value.

Note the quality:
Number of pages – cost per page.
Get quotes for
· Photography
· Copywriting
· Layout and Design

PR – Getting FREE Press for your invention.

Ask if the invention marketing firm offers a Press Campaign:

Ask about cost of writing the Press Release.  And press release distribution.

[NOTE: when a real marketing agency (like mine) writes press releases they write 3 of them: one for retail sales which shows the product benefits to end users; one for retailers that shows how fast the product will sell and how much money the retailer will make; and one for distributors showing wholesale profits, shipping and packaging information. Additionally each industry gets it’s own paragraph in the release specifically referencing the industry to increase chances of great placement.]

If you are not familiar with a press campaign please read my book,
“How To Market a Product for Under $500!”  
It has over 100 pages easy to read pages specially on
how to create a low-cost yet incredibly effective press campaign.

Press Campaign Questions:

Ask the invention marketing firm if they send press releases to magazines and newspapers.  And to companies.
(Trick question: Companies should NOT be on their press list – a press release is a media tool, not for use in marketing to private firms.)

· How many press released do they send?
· What industries will they send releases for your products?
· (I would know this if you asked me!)
·Where do they get their mailing list?
· Cost of each package being sent?
· Title of the people on the mailing list?
· Is there a letter going with your press release?
· Are letters personalized? (They should be!)
[Note: my firm ALWAYS sends a letter with EVERY release – there are no exceptions!] · Do they do any follow up?
· Ask about the research time they spend to do all of this…
· Phone calls – do they make phone calls up-front to each of the VIP editors who receive releases? (That’s what we do!)
· And what success have they had for other clients? (Ask for samples of the write-ups that appeared in print.)

NOTE: if all their press releases are sent by e-mail from a service, that actually doesn’t work. You can get 10,000 press releases sent by email for a few hundred dollars. They suck – no one reads them – they are spam!)

Are they sending Direct Mail?
What is the objective of the mailing?

Cost per mailing
Mailing List: to whom, what’s the source of list.
Reply Card
Mailing services
Follow up?
How many pieces will they mail?

CAD Drawings


Posting on Web:
Page make-up cost (creative)
Monthly charges/page

If the invention marketing firm says we post your invention on our website and there are 80,000,000 people who have access to it: ask how they will inform each person to go to your website page (reason: because no one will go there without some kind of notification). Ask how many visitors – page views – do they get for 1. their own website, and 2. other inventors pages?  (This figure is available through Google analytics)

Ask for references:

Very important! Ask for several customers you can call. Then call them. Ask how many units they’ve sold, where, and what kind of revenue they received. What was their cost?

Ask the invention marketing firm how many customers have made more money than they’ve spent with your company?

This last question is actually one of the questions from the Inventor Protection Act of 1999. If they don’t have a ready answer ask where can you find that information on their website. It’s the law they show you this information. If they don’t, they are breaking the law – and what does that tell you about doing business with them?

If they offer legal services, have the services broken down by cost. Services may include legal counsel, patent search, patent and provisional patent. Ask what is the typical cost of each.

Reference, Marketing Questions — Ask:

Can you point me to where I can find several of your successful products?

If they point to products posted to their website, that isn’t really success.

If they point to their client inventor products in CVS, Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes, Toys-R-Us – and say they are in ALL of these stores – or even just a few – that can mean success. If they have one invention in a local CVS, that doesn’t count as successful – or give them the right to say they have products in CVS.

Ask how many products – out of how many inventions they accepted – are in these stores?

If it’s just one success story out of hundreds, thousands of inventions – what do you think your chances are?

Ask: Can you show me a pattern of success for several of your inventors?

What campaign did you run for some of your inventor successes?

If they say we created a drawing or video and posted it on their website so 80,000,000 people can see it, that isn’t success. That’s what they did and doesn’t show ANY product success. That would be like saying “You can see our success, we took out an ad in a newspaper.”

Success is measured not in how many web pages you create or how many ads you’ve placed, it’s measured in sales and how many units you’ve sold.

What good does posting your product to a web page do? Can people buy the product there?
Do they get any sales for any of the other inventions they post? Are prices and ordering information on each page?

If people see your product on a web page, so what? You don’t make any money from people seeing it. To sell a product you need a price, an order form or a phone number to order from.

Most importantly, ask what they do to drive visitors to your page.
Because if they don’t do anything amazing, I’m pretty sure no one shows up to see your pages. There are 80,000,000 other websites. No one will know to go  to your page.

Ask: What is the first thing you do when people sign up for your program?
Then what’s next step, and the next?
They should know this. It’s the same for every invention.
The first steps are always the same.

What’s the cost of each step, and what is the overall expense. And how does that step make money for you, or point you to making money… or is it just worthless fluff to make them money.

When – a realistic time frame – does the inventor’s first revenue show up? You know, when does the money start coming in?  When they give you a period of time (one year, two years) ask where does this money come from?
When does the inventor become profitable?

How do you measure success for each campaign?
What is the criteria for success? If that part of the campaign is successful, what is the end result?

Ask: What do you do when early testing isn’t successful?
Do they stop spending client money and recommend complete regrouping? Or recommend criteria for go-no/go?

Face it: All initial marketing is a test. At least that’s what I’ve found. So I limit the spend of any initial campaign until see the some results, or at least the needle move in one direction.

Website Analysis

Things I look for on an invention marketing firm’s website:

Reviews and testimonials:

Some firms have a lot of “nice-nice” reviews. That’s NOT what I’m looking for.

For example the testimonial says: “They are really nice to deal with.” and “They held my hand every step of the way.” “They kept me advised of every step.”

I don’t think these kinds of reviews are helpful. At all. If you want a friend, buy a dog.

Here’s what those reviews tell me:

“They are really nice to deal with, while they were taking my money.” and “They held my hand every step of the way, while they were taking my money.” “They kept me advised of every step while they continued to take my money, take my money and take more money.”

It’s a business relationship.

You hire an invention marketing firm for a specific end goal: to make you money. That’s the end result – the goal – of the business relationship: you make more money than you spent with them.

If you enter a business relationship, which is what this is, they need to help you make you money – that’s the only, only business goal.

If you don’t make money on this one, how will you make money on the next one? Because without making money this time, there won’t be a next one. Making money = success. No money = failure. Any questions?

If making money isn’t your invention goal – that’s OK, too! You just need to say this up-front. It’s a different path. And you don’t need an invention marketing company.

If you just want your product developed so you can show it to friends, there are much cheaper routes: make one yourself in your basement! Or – find a prototypist and have him or her make you a sample.

Cost: Several hundred dollars. And done. No endless string of bills, bills and more bills – which is what you get from an unscrupulous marketing firm, along with a come-on of how great your product is.

If you want to make money – which should be your goal, the reviews and testimonials should say exactly what the marketing firm did for other inventors to reach that goal of making money.

The review should say how many stores the inventor’s product is in, or how many units they sold. How many distributors carry it.
That’s how you measure success. And that’s how you measure customer references and testimonials: did they make any money for their customers – and did the customers say it in their testimonials and references.

NOT: “Oh, they were nice to me, nice to deal with.” And, “They kept me up to date with everything they did.” Those are NOT business goals and that’s NOT what the reviews need to say for you to hire them.

If you look at the testimonials on my site they say things like “I mailed 100 of your letters and 4 people called me.” “The letter you wrote for us 3 years ago continues to generate a 5% response rate, and we still mail it!” That shows you the success of my work for my clients.

I’m not looking for a marketing firm with people who’s job it is to be nice to me. With any business, the people should be nice to you. It’s called good customer service.

Want someone to be nice to you, go to Starbucks. It’s cheaper: for a $5 coffee and a $5 tip the server will be really, really nice to you. Total cost: $10.

Invention marketing companies will be really, really nice to you until you are out of money – they they won’t speak with you on the phone.

Want your product developed and sold? Want to make money from it? Look for that in their online reviews.


Don’t spend thousands – and thousands – of dollars for a hand-holding process at an invention marketing firm. Because while their one hand is holding you firmly so you don’t move away, their other hand is reaching into your pants and taking your money out of your wallet.

If you are going to spend thousands of dollars with a firm, and hours and hours dealing with them over months or years – do your homework: research! Spend a few hours looking them up online. Read their website. Call their references. Ask direct questions.

Ask tough questions about the specifics of what they do, and what it costs. You have a right to know up front – it’s YOUR MONEY.

Ask them questions they are uncomfortable with. You may be uncomfortable with some of the questions as well. Better to find out NOW if they are any good – or bad – BEFORE you spend any money with them, not after it’s too late and you’re trying to figure out how to get your money back.

Ask tough questions and at the end of the day you’ll have answers, real answers, and will still have your own money in your own pocket. Then get it all in writing. Because you will never know if they are simply smooth talking crooks until it’s too late, and they have your money and won’t answer your phone calls. Then what are you going to do?

Frankly, I’d rather be uncomfortable for a few minutes with tough questions and keep my money, than not ask tough questions – and lose it.

Here’s the bottom line: You are in the drivers seat only BEFORE you hand them any money.  

And your best weapon is to ASK QUESTIONS.

If a firm has nothing to hide people you are speaking with will answer them.  Keep in mind if they are evasive, hard to get straight answers from or hard to deal with initially, it will get much, much worse later after they have your money.

It will get harder and harder to get straight answers, and they will continually ask you for more money. You will feel you need to protect your initial investment by giving them more money, which I assure you won’t work to your advantage. I’ve seen it. That’s what they do. They’re very good at what they do: fleecing inventors. Beware.

Ask Questions. Up front.  Your money, your choice.

Hope this is helpful!

Here’s a link to our home page, and a link to our articles for inventors.

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin is a serial inventor, an author and a speaker on Invention.  He has been on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Inventors for over 15 years, and was the President for an additional four years.  He has extensive experience helping inventors.  Dobkin is now the President of The Philadelphia Inventors Alliance – a non-profit organization whose mission is to help inventors succeed.  He can be reached through his website, or at his firm, The Danielle Adams Publishing Company, phone: 610-642-1000.  Dobkin has written 5 books on marketing, over 300 magazines have featured his writing.  Dobkin has a passion for family, art, music, racquetball, motorcycles,  invention and creative thought.  And a passion for helping people who help themselves.


Here’s the reply to a few questions I asked an invention marketing company, their answer – and my response”

Hello Jeff,

I appreciate the inquiry.
We sent you an email earlier today with information on our company.

I am the Project Director who will help you through the invention process.

I’d like to extend our Free Product Evaluation to you.

Here is a copy of our Non Disclosure Agreement:

Let me know if you need anything else.

Questions I originally asked, and their response:

What do you charge for a provisional patent?
We do not provide that service, we can refer you to one of our lawyers who can help you with that. Typical costs is $800-$1000.

How much does a typical inventor spend on your services?
This varies greatly from Project to Project. Depends on many factors: what stage the inventor is with their product, cost of product, materials, complexity, manufacture process, etc.
From concept to manufacturing to marketing, we’ve done them as low as $10,000 and as high as $200,000.
No “real” invention company can give you any pricing without first evaluating your project.
Plus, we are selective with any projects. We only want to take products with the greater chances of success.

Do you bill by the hour? What is your hourly rate?
Do you bill by project?
We bill by project step. We will never quote you from concept to store shelf.
However, we have a pay as you go program that helps inventors for each step.

What are some typical projects and their costs?
As stated above, there is no typical. Each project is unique and has different needs.

Where can I see some successful products you’ve developed.
If you are a golfer and driven in a gold cart, 90% chance you’ve stepped on our mats.
We manufacture for Ingersol Rand, Yamaha, and Club Car.
And if you ever used a Club and Ball Washer while golfing that is another product.
We manufacture many products in the golfing industry and Home & Garden.

Please send me a sample typical contract.
Which contract? We have only 2, Non disclosure and Terms & Conditions.

This was my second email:

Thanks, Jerry,

Received your communication.
But some of the questions weren’t really answered.
Appreciate your honesty in the first two questions.
But the next few answers weren’t much help in assessing my costs.
If you help inventors, yes, I know everything is different.  But if you have helped hundreds – or thousands – of inventors, some structure and similarities exist.  Some procedures and some costs are similar and reoccurring across all fronts.  What are a few.
Are you a manufacturer to manufacture client products?  Because I can hire manufacturing out to an industry specific manufacturing firm. You portray your firm as an invention development firm.   How do you market inventor’s products?  I mean besides posting on your website…
If you bill by project, please give a couple of projects you’ve completed and their costs, so I can see what to expect.
You have two contracts, please send both.
I’m less interested in your manufacturing matts for golf carts, and more  interested in how many inventors you’ve helped, how many made more money from your services than they spent with you. Is there somewhere I can find this figure on your website?
I know these seem tough, but there’s a lot of terrible firms out these in the inventor industry – I’d rather have these questions answered up front, before investing any money.
Thank you.  Jeff Dobkin

To Date, Jerry has not responded.

This bill is the law and is for the Inventors protection. Here’s the bill:

This subtitle may be cited as the

‘‘Inventors’ Rights Act of 1999’’

Chapter 29 of title 35, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section: §297. Improper and deceptive invention promotion
—An invention promoter shall have a duty to disclose the following information to a customer in writing, prior to entering into a contract for invention promotion services:
‘‘(1) the total number of inventions evaluated by the invention promoter for commercial potential in the past 5 years, as well as the number of those inventions that received positive evaluations, and the number of those inventions that received negative evaluations;
‘‘(2) the total number of customers who have contracted with the invention promoter in the past 5 years, not including customers who have purchased trade show services, research, advertising, or other nonmarketing services from the invention promoter, or who have defaulted in their payment to the invention promoter;
‘‘(3) the total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received a net financial profit as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter;
‘‘(4) the total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received license agreements for their inventions as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter; and ‘‘(5) the names and addresses of all previous invention promotion companies with which the invention promoter or its officers have collectively or individually been affiliated in the previous 10 years.
(1) Any customer who enters into a contract with an invention promoter and who is found by a court to have been injured by any material false or fraudulent statement or representation, or any omission of material fact, by that invention promoter (or any agent, employee, director, officer, partner, or independent contractor of such invention promoter), or by the failure of that invention promoter to disclose such information as required under subsection (a), may recover in a civil action against the invention promoter (or the officers, directors, or partners of such invention promoter),
in addition to reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees—

‘‘(A) the amount of actual damages incurred by the customer; or
‘‘(B) at the election of the customer at any time before final judgment is rendered, statutory damages in a sum of not more than $5,000, as the court considers just.
‘‘(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), in a case where the customer sustains the burden of proof, and the court finds, that the invention promoter intentionally misrepresented or omitted a material fact to such customer, or will fully failed to disclose such information as required under subsection (a), with the purpose of deceiving that customer, the court may increase damages to not more than three times the amount awarded, taking into account past complaints made against the invention promoter that resulted in regulatory sanctions or other corrective actions based on those records compiled by the Commissioner of Patents under subsection (d)