A Maryland man who said he invented a device to keep shower curtains away from bathers on Monday filed a lawsuit against an O'Hara company that he paid to help him develop and market his product.
Joseph Cooper of Rockville said in the complaint filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court that he paid Davison Design & Development more than $15,000 to help develop his idea.
However, he said that the company, which previously reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for $10 million, failed to follow through on the services it claimed to offer. He called them "a sham."
"Davison misleads amateur inventors, such as [Mr. Cooper], into thinking that their idea is 'special' and worth development by virtue of the fact that Davison has 'agreed' to develop the idea, but in reality, no true 'agreement' takes place, because Davison will 'develop' and 'market' any idea (even those that Davison itself believes to be nonsensical) so long as the inventor will pay Davison $10,000 or more, and thus the sole criteria for 'development' is money," the lawsuit said.
The claims include fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
George Crompton, Davison's attorney, said Mr. Cooper's allegations are baseless.
"We see this as buyer's remorse," he said. "He regrets he wasn't ultimately successful, but he knew very well the risks in advance."
Helene Leslie, a company representative, said they have notes from Mr. Cooper complimenting the work on the project.
The complaint, filed by attorney Todd Elliott, alleges that Davison never made any meaningful attempts to market the product and misled Mr. Cooper.
According to the FTC lawsuit, Davison failed to follow a number of regulations under the American Inventor's Protection Act, including informing prospective clients how many ideas the company has evaluated and failing to disclose how many inventions were picked up for production or had success.
The firm was originally ordered in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2006 to pay $26 million for using bogus claims to recruit customers.
The company settled two years later, agreeing to pay $10.7 million. The money was to be used to compensate the inventor clients.
The FTC accused the company of making false claims about how it was selective in choosing clients, about its track record on making inventions profitable and in its relationships with manufacturers.
As part of that case, the company was ordered to provide full disclosure to its potential clients about its ability to achieve success.
In the current disclosure on the Davison website, the company said more than 750,000 people have submitted new product designs to them in the last five years, 300,835 of those were offered a contract and 58,865 of those purchased a pre-development agreement.
Out of those, the number of consumers who obtained a written license with a company not affiliated with Davison is 338, and the total number of clients during that time who made more money in royalties than they paid to Davison is 16.
The company's attorney, Mr. Crompton, said Mr. Cooper's allegations are nothing like the FTC litigation, which he said centered around whether clients were adequately informed of the potential risks involved prior to reaching agreements.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.