See 'em all the time and have for years. Are they legit?
As I understand (and companies may vary) they charge a fee to do a patent search, and then register it if the customer choses to do so. These are things which the average person could do themselves, but not knowing where to start, some people would turn to a service like this, paying the money rather than having the headaches.
I’ve heard that some do a “market research” workup of each invention submitted to them, but I have suspicions that it’s not terribly thorough. Real market research would be very expensive and take a long time, so, I would guess that the report given to the customer is something about general items like theirs (such as electronic communication devices) and whether the industry is expected to grow or not.
Patent application and research of ‘prior art’ can easily cost $5K. All of the paperwork is a time consuming PITA, which is why some folks will turn to one of these firms, rather than hiring their own patent attorney. This choice comes with a price, from what I’ve read-the firm doing all of the work extracts a percentage of revenue from the success of the patented item, a portion of royalties if you license an outside manufacturer, etc.
In short, if you want complete control over your concept, then you pay. If someone else foots part or all of the bill, you must give up a measure of control.
Their appeal is to the same folk interested in perpetual motion, overunity and ‘home workshop inventors’ who believe they have the greatest thing since sliced bread and fried ice cream. Many towns/cities have inventors councils of similar organizations to lend a legitimatee helping hand. If they advertise profusely they are probably blood suckers.
Patents aren’t cheap and unless you have a really worthwhile, useful, salable item the game may not be worth the chase! Unless you can capatilize on the item, the patent is just an expensive piece of paper.
This is all anecdote -
I’ve seen news articles about scam patent agencies, which took money from inventors and never flied for a patent, or sucked up huge sums in “marketing research” and then told the client the idea was worthless.
On the other hand, I distinctly remember an article about a goverment-funded group set up to help inventors get their ideas to market. They held a contest for the best ideas (winners got cash, a free ad campaign, and I think some grant money towards manufacturing - great deal!) but had to cancel it because they didn’t get anywhere near their goal of 500 ideas submitted. So there are unused resources out there for helping out inventors.
If you’re actually an inventor, rather than asking this out of idle curiousity, I’d suggest contacting your town office or searching some federal websites - they might have grant money available.