Invention submission firms
Where there's a will, there's someone looking to exploit it. Whatever your invention, it's essential to look out for the sharks. If your idea is not suitable for patenting, there are people out there who will try to convince you it is; and even if it is suitable there will be people who will try to take much more money from you than is necessary. Unscrupulous invention submission firms certainly exist, but can be avoided with a little research and savvy.
One thing in particular to beware of is a scam where an unscrupulous company will tell you they have filed your application for you, when all they have done is entered it into the disclosure document program. The informal description used in this program stays undisclosed for two years and becomes part of any formal application made during this time. However, it doesn't have any legal priority over other applications. Inventors caught out by this scam might only discover that the money they have paid to an invention submission firm in the belief that an application has been made is wasted when someone else is awarded a patent for 'their' innovation.
Basically, it's all a case of better safe than sorry. It's hard enough to be enterprising as it is without all the unscrupulous operators who want a piece of you. And unfortunately for many small businesses, once bitten there may not be a chance to be twice shy. But it's not all doom and gloom. Definitely don't discount enlisting professional help in your search to gain a patent - in fact, this is highly recommended, particularly for the finer legal points of the process. It just means that you should be careful about who you employ. Keep careful records of your work, and instead of being lured to a questionable invention submission firm, hire a patent lawyer or agent who is specifically trained in the field of intellectual property. Ideally find someone through personal recommendation, but if you have to take on a stranger, make sure that you look at references and establish as much as possible about their background and success rate before you hire them. Also ask what will happen if you need to disengage them for any reason.
Bear in mind finally that you can't pay a lawyer or agent in future earnings from your invention - selling a security like this is highly illegal. You can legally sell them a portion of the invention for cash, but these kind of exchanges are rather dodgy on both sides because you might give away too much or they might get into trouble (there are strict codes of practice for all forms of law). So you should think carefully about any such arrangement.