Geana Jones was training to be a nurse when she came up with the idea for reusable tattoo covers that can temporarily hide body art. But she didn’t know where to start or how to file for a patent, so she turned to a company then advised by Matt Whitaker, President Trump’s new acting attorney general.
She wound up pouring thousands of dollars from her family savings into what she says was an elaborate scam.
Now, Jones is involved in a class action lawsuit against the company. And she thinks Whitaker’s position on the company’s advisory board warrants an investigation.
World Patent Marketing used flattery to convince inventors to use its services, regardless of their invention’s merits or patentability, Jones says. When she first contacted the company about her invention in 2014, she heard back almost immediately. “They called me and said, ‘You know what? You got a great idea,'” A representative also told her she should patent her invention “ASAP.” Excited about the tattoo cover-ups’ potential, she paid World Patent Marketing around $20,000 for a package that included everything from prototyping, marketing and licensing, to product manufacturing and patenting. In return, Jones says, she obtained a logo, a short promotional video — and not much else.
By April 2015, Jones was growing impatient and filed a complaint with Ripoff Report. But when World Patent Marketing CEO Scott Cooper got wind of her complaint, he threatened her with legal action, according to emails reviewed by VICE News. “I am getting SICK and TIRED of your bi-polar behavior,” Cooper wrote to her in one message dated April 20, 2015. “I suggest you remove any negative post from the Internet, or not only will I stop working on your project, I will initiate a lawsuit against you this week for trying to damage my company reputation through defamation libel and slander.” Worried about a potential lawsuit and the loss of any progress on her invention, Jones retracted the complaint. Cooper declined to comment for this story.
By January 2016, Jones was filing complaints again, this time with the FTC and the Better Business Bureau. Eventually, she joined a class action lawsuit against World Patent Marketing. In May 2018, the FTC obtained a settlement that required the company to halt its business and pay back $26 million to thousands of inventors, some of whom are now speaking to the press about their experiences. World Patent Marketing did not admit liability.
When Whitaker was named Acting Attorney General in the wake of Jeff Sessions’ resignation last week, World Patent Marketing was the last thing on Jones’ mind. She gave birth to a baby boy 10 days ago, and was focused on her newborn. But late last week, another former customer got in touch with her and told her about Whitaker’s involvement with World Patent Marketing. As she sifted through old emails, she realized that his name was featured on a number of the company's marketing emails. For Jones, it’s clear the use of Whitaker’s name “was a scare tactic, like Scott trying to give credibility to his company.”
Jones says she doesn’t know if Matthew Whitaker knew what World Patent Marketing was up to, but she thinks there should be an investigation. “We don't know what his involvement was with Scott. Is this something we should be concerned about? Beyond that, he's going to be overseeing the whole Department of Justice — that's a big deal.”
A Justice Department spokesperson told VICE News that “Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has said he is not aware of any fraudulent activity. Any stories suggesting otherwise are false.”
Jones hasn’t received any money from the FTC settlement. She says the thousands of dollars she lost — in addition to the thousands she then had to spend to fix World Patent Marketing’s mess — made things extremely hard on her family. “I lost a lot of friends, a lot of family that ask questions like ‘How are you broke?’ ‘How did you become a victim of this?’ I got blamed.” But she hasn’t let her experience with World Patent Marketing stop her from pursuing her goals. She’s forged ahead with her tattoo covers, and hopes to mass-manufacture her product soon, through her own company Conceal Skin.
VICE News visited Jones in her California home to talk to her about her invention, the new acting AG, and her experience with World Patent Marketing.