A group of Quebec inventors has been given the green light by a judge for a class action lawsuit against an industry organization and its president for alleged fraud.
Inventors were allegedly duped into paying membership fees and other costs related to registering patents but received nothing or little in return, Marc-Antoine Cloutier, who is representing the plaintiffs, said Friday.
“These inventors paid annual membership fees and paid for services that simply didn’t exist,” he said. “It was like a scam, with the objective of taking money from people as opposed to giving them a service.”
The lawsuit alleges the federation of Quebec inventors and its president, Christian William Varin, “systemically exploited the vulnerability of neophyte inventors.”
Inventors discovered they paid money to Varin to help them obtain a patent only to discover their idea was either not patentable or had already been claimed by someone else, Cloutier said.
“They all realized in the end they received nothing, or things weren’t done properly,” said Cloutier, who added that Varin allegedly misrepresented his services, prices, and network of contacts.
About 120 people have registered for the class action, said Cloutier, who added he expects many more to come forward.
The Quebec Superior Court lawsuit is seeking $2,000 for each inventor as well as other costs associated with their attempts to monetize their ideas.
Justice Frederic Bachand authorized the class action Thursday.
Varin’s lawyer, Normand Hache, said in an email his office was closed for the holidays and would not comment on the class action.
A Radio-Canada report in 2017 indicated Quebec’s consumer protection office had been looking into the federation after it received more than 10 complaints about Varin’s business.
Montreal La Presse reported in June that an inventor north of Montreal, Robert Boudreau, is suing Varin and his federation for more than $600,000 for allegedly botching his attempt to secure a patent for his product.
Attempts to contact the consumer protection bureau as well as Boudreau or his lawyer were unsuccessful.