Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In search of the HEIMRICK, Fremont PA & 19 soap bar recyclers: My investigation request to the Pennsylvania Attorney General re: two high-profile Pittsburgh companies

From an investigations request letter I sent yesterday to James A. Donahue III, Executive Deputy Attorney General in the Public Protection Division of the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General in Harrisburg. (Click here to download a copy.)


As you may be aware, InventHelp and Intromark are defendants in $100+m class action lawsuits alleging fraud. On my blog, I’ve compiled links to court filings, media reports, and other information regarding the case.

...About a year and a half ago, I came across this press release published by PRNewswire.com:
Inventor and InventHelp Client Develops First-Aid Choking Device (SFO-369)
The HEIMRICK is being submitted to companies by InventHelp, a leading invention submission company.

PITTSBURGH, PA (PRWEB) June 09, 2017

An inventor from Fremont, Pa., has developed the HEIMRICK, a device that automatically performs the Heimlich maneuver on a choking victim at a restaurant or related establishment.

“I invented this to prevent people from choking and dying. It’s a safety device that can be available in various eating establishments,” said the inventor.

The HEIMRICK provides a means of accurately performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking victim. It provides a greater level of effectiveness than manual methods. It will assist individuals with lack of knowledge on how to manually perform the Heimlich. In addition, the size of the victim versus the size of the person helping is irrelevant. This safety device will mechanically help and possibly save a choking victim.

The original design was submitted to the San Francisco office of InventHelp. It is currently available for licensing or sale to manufacturers or marketers. For more information, write Dept. 16-SFO-369, InventHelp, 217 Ninth Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or call (412) 288-1300 ext. 1368. Learn more about InventHelp's Invention

Submission Services at http://www.InventHelp.com - https://www.youtube.com/user/inventhelp

Contact Author
Chrissa Chverchko
+1 (412) 288-2136
Ext: 4118 Email >
One of my research/reporting interests is anti-choking devices which have been marketed over the decades, so this sounded like a newsworthy item for my blog.

I’d never heard of the HEIMRICK and the vague description piqued my interest. What did it look like? How does it “automatically” perform the Heimlich maneuver? Could it help save lives?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I assumed InventHelp and the unnamed Fremont, Pennsylvania inventor would be delighted to learn that the son of the developer of “the Heimlich” wanted to report about the HEIMRICK.

However, despite multiple phone messages and e-mails to Ms. Chverchko and other InventHelp employees plus a tweet to (company president Robert) Susa. I didn’t receive any response.

Further, I was unable to locate the HEIMRICK inventor’s hometown of Fremont, Pennsylvania...(It’s) unclear if Fremont, Pennsylvania exists.

More recently it occurred to me to revisit the HEIMRICK. As a businessman, I’m always looking for interesting opportunities.

...I repeatedly asked Mr. Susa and (Intromark's Robby) Smith for more details about the HEIMRICK including: a photo or drawing of the device; the name of the inventor, and any other information to help evaluate whether I might wish to manufacture and/or market the device. I also informed them that I was unable to locate Fremont, PA. Despite repeated inquiries, I never received any of the requested information.

...If I was an InventHelp client, I’d want to be made aware of every inquiry from potential manufacturers/marketers so that I could make my own evaluations. And wouldn’t the HEIMRICK inventor want to be informed that the son of Dr. Heimlich was inquiring about a business relationship?

...Further, I’ve been unable to locate any information about the HEIMRICK except for InventHelp’s press release, therefore I have no way to contact the inventor. Therefore I‘m concerned that InventHelp and Intromark are denying the inventor and me the opportunity to pursue what might be a mutually-beneficial business relationship.

As a result of my experiences re: the HEIMRICK, I was curious to learn more about InventHelp’s press release solicitations of potential manufacturers and marketers for their clients’ products.

PRNewswire’s website archives only the most recent six months of these solicitations. According to these screenshots I made this afternoon, from August 20, 2018 through February 18, 2019 (today), InventHelp issued 2,081 press release solicitations for different inventions, an average of 347 per month.

Further, in the course of researching the company’s press releases, I noted a similarity between a number of purportedly unique inventions...(For example) from August 28, 2013 through September 7, 2018 InventHelp issued 19 press release solicitations for 19 different inventions, all of which claim to combine soap bar slivers into a larger bar of soap....Please click here for a pdf compilation of the 19 press releases.

...1. August 28, 2013 , InventHelp Introduces The Soap Saver - Invention Conserves Bars of Soap (LAX-405), La Verne, CA

2. September 11, 2013, InventHelp Inventor Develops Soap Rejuvenator (RBH-220), Wake Forest, NC

3. October 28, 2013, InventHelp Client Creates Soap-Saving Accessory (CLT-877), Charlotte, NC

4. October 31, 2013, InventHelp Inventor Develops Bar-Soap Accessory (SAH-402), Placerville, CA

5. December 19, 2013, InventHelp Introduces Device that Allows For Conservation of Soap Slivers (HLW-1138), Fort Pierce, FL

6. April 25, 2015, InventHelp Inventor Develops Bathing Accessory (LCC-244), Harrisburg, PA

7. October 3, 2015, Soap Saver Invented by InventHelp Client (BGF-906), Troy, MI

8. October 4, 2015, InventHelp Inventor Develops Device for Reusing Bar Soap (CLT-961), Sherills Ford, NC

9. October 21, 2015, InventHelp Inventor Designs Soap Saving Device (JSN-105), Jacksonville, FL

10. November 5, 2015, InventHelp Inventor Develops Device for Reusing Bar Soap (BRK-2093), Smiths Station, AL

11. October 25, 2016, InventHelp Client's Device Promotes Conservation of Bar Soap (HLW-1658), Hialeah, FL

12. December 2, 2016, InventHelp Invention Allows For More Thorough and Efficient Use of Soap During Bathing and Showering (PND-4723), Marlton, NJ

13. December 21, 2016, InventHelp Device Allows For Conservation of Bar Soap (LAX-797), Thousand Oaks, CA

14. April 1, 2017, InventHelp Inventor Develops Device to Reuse Slivers of Bar Soap (HLW1763), Temple, GA

15. September 30, 2017, Inventor Develops Device to Reform Soap Slivers (BRK-2326), Homewood, AL

16. November 22, 2017, Inventor Develops Convenient Soap-Saving Accessory (JMC-2500), Richmond, VA

17. June 18, 2018, InventHelp Inventor Develops Soap Bar Recycler (AAT-3089), Salem, NJ

18. July 12, 2018, InventHelp Inventor's Invention Recycles Bar Soap (LLF-227), Seffner, FL

19. September 7, 2018, InventHelp Inventor Develops Soap-Preservation Device, (NJD-1630) Belleville, NJ

Frankly, I don't know what to make of any of this, but I 'd appreciate it if your office would review the above information and any other relevant information in order to determine if InventHelp and Intromark are conducting business according to all requisite statutes and guidelines.

Finally, I'm still very much interested in obtaining contact information for the inventor of the HEIMRICK and the whereabouts of Fremont, PA. Would your office please request that information from InventHelp and inform me of their response?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Media watchdog reports my efforts to stop UK newspapers from "the Orwellian 'disappearing' of published news reports"

A few weeks ago I blogged, A hole worth plugging? Many UK newspapers can "disappear" online news stories with impunity; today I asked the presiding authority to take a look.

Today the Press Gazette, the prominent UK media watchdog, published an article about my efforts, Blogger asks press regulator to consider sanctions against online publishers that pull articles without explanation by staff reporter Charlotte Tobitt.

Some key pulls:
A US blogger is pushing for a change to the Editors’ Code of Practice – the standards to which most UK newspapers are held – which would see publications sanctioned for pulling articles without explanation.

Peter Heimlich has asked the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee to consider “plugging” a hole in the code which allows publishers to delete online news articles “with impunity.”

...Heimlich referenced three articles published by Independent Press Standards Organisation member publications that relate to his area of research and which were deleted with no explanation: 
  • Mail Online: Ed Byrne saves choking fan’s life, 2 January 2018
  • Northampton Chronicle & Echo: Northampton care home staff save residents’ life after he started choking, 15 June 2018
  • Milton Keynes Citizen: Milton Keynes man’s device saves 11 people from choking to death, 17 January 2019
Heimlich told Press Gazette: “’Here today, gone tomorrow’ reporting is not only junk journalism, it’s a thumb in the eye to readers: ‘If we get something wrong, we’ll just bury it and you don’t deserve an explanation.’"

...“I don’t know if the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee has ever reviewed/addressed the problem of member publications making like Winston Smith, but as a result of my experiences, I thought it was worth bringing to their attention. I’m curious to learn how they respond.”

...In a letter to Code Committee secretary Jonathan Grun, Heimlich wrote: “For instance, if an article includes false information, rather than exercising editorial responsibility to correct errors, a publication may simply eliminate the entire story.

“That may shield reporters and editors from embarrassment (or worse), but in my opinion the Orwellian ‘disappearing’ of published news reports is a disservice to readers and to the record.

“It’s also a slippery ethical slope. For example, if an advertiser doesn’t like critical information in a story, could a word in the ear of a person with authority at the newspaper lead to the offending article being sent down the memory hole?”

Grun told Press Gazette he had received Heimlich’s request and that “suggestions for amendments to the Editors’ Code are considered by the Editors’ Code Committee in due course”.
Will the Editors' Code Committee "plug the memory hole" into which "most UK newspapers" may "disappear" published news reports?

To find out, keep reading The Sidebar!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Yo Will Smith! Your birthday tribute to my dad for saving your brother's life may be misplaced

As Sidebar readers know, in 1976 my friend, retired anesthesiologist Chuck Guildner MD of Everett, WA, published a research study that concluded chest thrusts are more effective for responding to a choking emergency than my dad's namesake below-the-ribcage abdominal thrust maneuver.

Since then, there's been a lively debate in the medical community over which is the most effective and safest treatment.

For example, last August fellow blogger Anthony Pearson MD of St. Louis (aka The Skeptical Cardiologist) published the provocatively-titled A Call To Reconsider The Heimlich Experiment: Let’s Scientifically Determine The Best Approach To Choking Victims.

Along those lines, an emergency medicine specialist once asked me, "How many successful choking rescues using chest thrusts have been incorrectly attributed to the Heimlich maneuver?"

Based on the above animated fun video posted on February 3, 2019, one such case may have been the brother of multi-talented actor/comedian/producer/rapper/songwriter Will Smith.

Here's Will's narration:
Today is Henry Heimlich's birthday. I actually saved my brother's life once with a Heimlich maneuver.

McDonald's had come out with that McRib sandwich and he went and got the McDonald's McRib. And we were pulled over in Philly and all of a sudden my brother just punches me in my back and I'm, like, "Ow man, shit!"

And I turn around and he's in the car and he's going (makes extreme gestures indicating choking) and he's doin' that.
So I reached down inside of the car and got right below the sternum...

[Ghostly apparition of my dad] "Use the Heimlich, Will!"

And it was barrelin' [?] the up move and the down and the McRib sandwich shot out of his nose onto the windshield, it was a full splash out of his nose.
Imitating his brother: "You saved my life, you saved my life!"

So happy birthday, Henry Heimlich, you actually saved my brother's life.
I have zero expertise in physiology, but I'm not sure how the McRib went from his brother's esophagus through his nose!

That aside, since Will was outside the car and reached in through the window, it's difficult to imagine his arms were long enough to get below his brother's rib cage.

And Will says he squeezed "right below the sternum." That sounds like a chest thrust.

Therefore, Will's birthday tribute to my pa appears to have been misplaced.

Shouldn't he be thanking Dr. Guildner?

Yo Will, if you and/or your brother want to check in with Chuck to express your gratitude for getting the better of that McRib, he's alive and well and regularly navigating the waterways near his home in Everett, Washington near Seattle.

Feel free to e-mail me for Dr. Guildner's contact info.

Charles W. Guildner MD

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

$100+m class action lawsuits against InventHelp et al: Compilation of court filings, media reports, attorney contacts (updated 11/25/19)

Click here for an incomplete compilation of court filings via my Scribd account.

Click here for my February 19, 2019 blog item, In search of the HEIMRICK, Fremont PA & 19 soap bar recyclers: My investigation request to the Pennsylvania Attorney General re: two high-profile Pittsburgh companies.


Would-be inventors accuse InventHelp of fraud, seek $36M by Bill Heltzel, Westfair Online,February 7, 2018

Pittsburgh invention promotion company accused of scamming thousands of inventors by Paul Van Osdol, WTAE News (ABC Pittsburgh affiliate), July 19, 2019

Inventors Suing InventHelp Want to Know Why George Foreman Represents the Company by Margaret Downing, Houston Press, September 4, 2018
There is a lawsuit and [Spring, Texas resident] Etta Calhoun’s name is on it, the lead name, in fact, on a class action lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania. There is another class action lawsuit in New York state. The defendants in both cases are InventHelp and associated companies in which Calhoun and others allege that InventHelp’s operation is a scam, that InventHelp and its associated companies prey upon low income people, often minorities, and either do nothing or deliver subpar work.

...InventHelp denies all allegations and has tried unsuccessfully to have both lawsuits thrown out of court, insisting in one case that the plaintiffs were clients of another company, not InventHelp. George Foreman is not named as a defendant, although (plaintiffs' attorney Julie Pecharsky) Plitt says he may be added later.
We were unable to reach (retired boxer George) Foreman.
...We did talk with his son George Foreman IV who said InventHelp was a great company and expressed surprise at our call. He said they’d never heard of any lawsuit against InventHelp. He said he’d see if his father would talk to us, but that never happened and instead in a subsequent call, Foreman IV politely referred us back to InventHelp.
The lawsuits each ask for a jury trial, $36 million in relief and punitive damages and another $72 million in compensatory damages.
...Asked if she believed more than a few clients – who paid anywhere from $700 to $30,000 for InventHelp’s assistance – bought into InventHelp because of Foreman’s representation, Plitt says “More than several. I would say the vast majority of them.
A retired engineer patented his own game, but thinks he may have been gamed by a marketing pitch by Courtney Linder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 21, 2019

InventHelp Fraud Class Action Has Legs, Court Told by Matthew Santoni, Law360, February 1, 2019 (behind subscription paywall)
(Etta) Calhoun is represented by Marc S. Oxman and Julie Pechersky Plitt of Oxman Law Group PLLC, Richard J. Levan and Jon-Jorge Aras of Levan Legal LLC, and Stanley W. Greenfield of Greenfield & Kraut.

InventHelp is represented by David J. Garraux of Fox Rothschild LLC.

Thomas Frost is represented by James W. Kraus of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti LLP.

The case is Calhoun v. Invention Submission Corp. et aI., case number 2: 18-cv-Ol022, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
KDKA Investigates: In Federal Lawsuit, Local Inventors Say InventHelp Let Them Down by Andy Sheehan, KDKA-TV CBS Pittsburgh (click title link for video), November 25, 2019:
Antonelli is one of several hundreds of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court accusing InventHelp of “a deceptive and fraudulent inventing promotion scam that has bilked thousands of aspiring inventors into paying millions of dollars.”

The suit claims the company dangles the prospect of riches, pressures prospective clients into expensive contracts, then reneges on their promise to market the product through a so-called “databank” of participating companies.

“In truth and in fact, many of these companies on these lists do not even exist and/or are sham companies. Others have not agreed to ‘review new ideas in confidence,’ have not signed non-disclosure agreements, and have no relationship whatsoever with InventHelp,” the suit says.

Attorney Julie Pechersky Plitt said: “I would say this is fraud, pure and simple from start to finish. False promises, false companies, false licensing agreement. Everything about it is fraudulent.”

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan visited InventHelp’s headquarters here in Pittsburgh — he called and sent emails, seeking a response to these allegations but only received this short reply:

“InventHelp is very confident that it will prevail in (this) case, and is proud of the quality services it offers to inventors across the country.”

Friday, February 1, 2019

Audi Super Bowl TV commercial features "lifesaving choking rescue" using chest thrusts [UPDATED 3/1/19]

As Sidebar readers know, in the medical community there's been a 40-year debate whether chest thrusts are more effective and safer for responding to a choking emergency than my dad's namesake abdominal thrust maneuver.

The debate began with the publication of a 1976 a research study by my friend, retired anesthesiologist Chuck Guildner MD of Everett, WA, which concluded chest thrusts were an improvement over than "the Heimlich." (Click here for more about that.)

Car manufacturer Audi appears to agree with Chuck.

Via Audi's electrified Super Bowl ad by Larry P. Vellequette in today's Automotive News:
Spoiler alert: Audi's electrified commercial for Sunday's Super Bowl is a little nuts.

...Seated inside the electric sports car, the man presses the start button, bringing the car to life, but before he can drive off, his chest begins to convulse. The setting abruptly switches to a cubicle in an office, where the man, unconscious, is being given the Heimlich maneuver by a co-worker, and spits out a single cashew that had choked him. He regains consciousness, clearly disappointed.
In fact, the man is not given the Heimlich maneuver, he's clearly being given...oh, just watch it and see for yourself.

2/20/19 UPDATE: The Cornell Chronicle published a February 7, 2019 item which incorrectly identified the chest thrust anti-choking treatment performed in the Audi Super Bowl commercial as the "Heimlich maneuver." Click here an archived copy.

As a result of my outreach (which resulted in a fun exchange with Chronicle editors), yesterday the publication published this correction in an updated version of the item:

Other publications made the same error, so I'm sending them this item with requests for published corrections. I'll report the results here.

My original item is below the hash marks.

3/1/19 UPDATE: After receiving my corrections request re: his 2/1/19 item, TopSpeed.com reporter Jonathan Lopez took the