For nearly three years, World Patent Marketing ran a multi-million dollar scam here, separating would-be inventors from their money, at times promoting a global patent that did not exist, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission.
Based solely on the FTC’s claims, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order freezing all assets of the company and its founder, Scott Cooper, 43.
Next week, the defendants are scheduled to appear in court to argue why the temporary restraining order should not be elevated to a preliminary injunction.
Ultimately, the FTC is seeking a permanent injunction shutting down the company and returning whatever “ill-gotten monies” remain to what it says are victims of an “invention-promotion scam that has bilked thousands of customers out of millions of dollars.”
Cooper and lawyers for him and the company declined to comment on the allegations and have not yet filed court papers responding to the assertions in the FTC complaint.
Cooper, who was formerly in the car and mortgage businesses, continues to live in the Miami Beach waterfront home he purchased last April for $3.2 million, but he is barred by the judge’s order from selling it, or the million-dollar-plus 70-foot yacht he has berthed at Miami Beach Marina.
While Cooper has made money, “virtually none of (his and his company’s) customers has,” the FTC claims, adding “there is no such thing as a ‘global patent,’” something the company pitched to customers for nearly $65,000.
World Patent Marketing did “sometimes provide certain inconsequential services in an attempt to string their customers along,” the complaint says. But, in the end, they “leave most of their customers with nothing … Indeed, many of defendants’ customers end up in debt, or losing their life savings or inheritances after investing in defendants’ broken promises.”
Count Chris Seaver among those who says he lost his life savings.
He said he gave Cooper and his company $380,000 to help patent and produce what began as an invention called SmartNet, an elastic netting that fastens onto cell phones and tablets to hold what might otherwise fall or get lost.
“I said, well maybe this is an idea that might be useful and hasn’t been thought up yet,” Seaver recalled.
A surgeon, Seaver is no easy mark.
He did research on the company, perused its slick website, watched its marketing videos and felt it could help get the job done.
“When I signed my agreement with Scott Cooper, he came up and gave me a hug and he said, ‘It’s great to be a partner with you. You know you can trust me,’” he said.
But, he said, Cooper kept delaying his invention, even persuading him to change it altogether into a simple plastic cellphone case, a joint venture.
“At that point in time he said the take would be 90 percent for me, 10 percent for his company,” Seaver said.
And Cooper ingratiated himself further by offering Seaver a slot on the company’s volunteer advisory board – a board a recently elected congressman who’s met Cooper said he did not even know he was part of, until contacted by media.
After being strung along for 18 months, Seaver said he recently realized he has been taken.
He’s talked to federal investigators, who, he said, told him the company may have taken in more than $10 million.
Others who claim they were victims: a Georgia woman who paid $20,000 to WPM to help patent a receptacle for used chewing gum.
And a Miramar man who spent $12,000 in a quest to patent and market a child’s car seat alarm.
Neither of them has received a patent, a typical outcome, the FTC claimed, saying WPM’s “poor quality” patent applications “are often not approved.”
Having paid off his student loans, Seaver said he thought the timing was right for him to see if his SmartNet invention would take off and pay off.
Instead, he said, he has drained his savings and taken out $160,000 in credit lines to pay WPM.
“I think Scott Cooper only cared about Scott Cooper,” he said. “I think Scott Cooper is interested in getting paid fast, getting money up on the table and basically running with the money.”
“He’s very good at what he does, very good. He knows how to bring you in and he knows how to give you face time when he needs to and he knows what to say when he has to say it,” Seaver said, adding there’s a word for somebody like that: “Scam artist.”
In addition to the FTC lawsuit, the company is being sued by an Arizona patent law firm, which claims it is owed nearly $95,000 for unpaid invoices, and a class action lawsuit has been filed in New York on behalf of other aspiring inventors who say they were victims.