(Dis)United Inventors Association of America

 

What on earth is going on at The United Inventors Association of America?  At this point, if you’re a UK inventor you can make an excuse and leave, as little of what follows is relevant to the UK. But it’s fascinating, so stay with it if you possibly can.

Briefly, the United Inventors Association of America (hereafter UIA) is: ‘a national, non-profit organization dedicated to inventor education and support, as well as certification of local independent inventor groups and service providers who comply with rigorous professional and ethical standards.’ It all sounds highly worthy, but growing numbers of US inventors who have had dealings with UIA are queuing up to differ, loudly and vehemently.

 

Mark Reyland – oh dear

There seem to be two fundamental problems. The first is UAI’s CEO Mark Reyland, a man for whom the word controversy might have been invented. He is accused variously of having a bogus CV, playing fast and loose with other people’s inventions, using abuse and intimidation to silence his critics, accusing said critics of a variety of lurid offences including stalking him and his family, and creating a string of alter egos to cause mischief on internet invention forums. For a flavour of the loathing, have a look at just this one blog.

It’s all very weird stuff. There is no definitive charge sheet so it’s hard from this distance to make full sense of everything, but there is certainly too much smoke to claim an absence of fire. And I can personally confirm Mark Reyland’s use of abusive and aggressive language in an email I was copied into in 2011. That one short message spoke volumes.

Being charitable, there are always two sides to every dispute so it’s possible Mark Reyland isn’t quite the danger to shipping his critics claim. But he does seem to be his own worst enemy, making no attempt to communicate professionally or produce convincing evidence in his defence. He actually seems to prefer pouring more fuel on the fire, continuing to goad and defy his critics whenever he can.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he enjoys his bad boy image. Why? Is he laughing all the way to the bank? That seems unlikely, so his motivation is a mystery.

 

UIA – big questions to answer

Another mystery – and the second fundamental question – is what the UIA’s board of directors is doing about their wayward employee. The simple answer appears to be… absolutely nothing. Trying to contact UIA president Warren Tuttle, or any of the other directors, is next to impossible. Complaint emails apparently divert to Mark Reyland, who answers them in his customary delightful way.

Can the UIA board be unaware of what’s going on? It seems unlikely, yet they all choose to remain silent and inactive.

All of which raises big questions about what UIA actually is and does. Its website offers few clues – which is perhaps a clue in itself. Membership for US inventors is free, but what does it get them? There is vague mention of ‘educational outreach programs’, but little to indicate what those programs are or how they help. And there is mention of ‘certification of local independent inventor groups and service providers who comply with rigorous professional and ethical standards’ – but without a scrap of evidence of any legal or other authority to justify a certification role. It sounds good but means nothing.

 

Conflict of interest

My own speculation is that UIA is in effect a small commercial operation passing itself off as something bigger and more altruistic. (Perhaps to gain tax advantages?) Apart from one director about whom no information is available, all UIA directors are engaged commercially in exploiting inventions for profit. All well and good – up to a point. To avoid charges of conflict of interest, there ought to be at least one director – ideally, a majority – not involved in innovation for personal gain. Otherwise, it’s hard to see how UIA can claim to be an impartial organisation with ‘rigorous professional and ethical standards’.

Mark Reyland has managed to mire UIA in rancour and suspicion for at least a couple of years. That’s way too long. Any reputable organisation would by now have either fired him or suspended him and put a caretaker CEO in place until the mess was investigated and sorted out. So why is he still running the show?

Maybe UIA’s president and directors lack courage. Maybe they’re held contractually over a barrel by Mark Reyland. Maybe they simply don’t care enough about UIA and its inventor members to stir themselves. What matters is that for as long as there is no resolution to a situation that is both serious and farcical, UIA should be regarded as a basket case by all US inventors with any sense.

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