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Trade Mark Solicitation Scams – Don’t get Scammed!

Trademark solicitation scams from fake trade mark registration agencies have become a progressively serious problem through the years.

Owners of trademarks who are either applicants or registrants receive letters through the post or by email that solicit substantial payments for fake services. The “scam” notice asks for a payment to ‘register’ a trade mark or ‘record’ the trade mark in a so-called official journal or database.

These letters are from scammers that pretend to be legitimate organisations or government agencies. The notice together with an invoice is misleading because the scammers represent the notice is on behalf of an official organisation such as the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The purpose of these letters is to deceive the brand owners into believing they are paying for official services.

These operators source the information from official publications in trade mark journals and registers which are open to the public. They often offer to include your IP right in overseas registers. Others may offer to provide a monitoring or reminder service for your IP right registration.

The scammers use information gathered from public databases of the IP organization that contain the name and address details of trade mark owners and registrants. These letters are very “official” looking as they correctly identify the name, address and trade mark details of the brand owner. These scammers send thousands of letters annually to con their victims into paying them exorbitant fees!

The fact that this problem is on the rise shows that the scams are successful and lucrative in duping rights holders. The World Trade Review (WTR) has found evidence that in New Zealand alone an estimated 8% of recipients have paid the fraudulent invoices they received from the scammer.

The problem is so widespread that WIPO has published a list of known trade mark registration scams which can be located here with the warning:

“It has come to the attention of the International Bureau that PCT applicants and agents are receiving invitations to pay fees that do not come from the International Bureau of WIPO and are unrelated to the processing of international applications under the PCT. Whatever registration services might be offered in such invitations, they bear no connection to WIPO or to any of its official publications.”

IP Australia has issued a similar warning to the effect:

“Many Australian small business owners are targeted by unofficial third party organisations when it’s time to renew their trade mark. We often see people being charged hundreds, even thousands of dollars more than our fees… The companies that send out these invoices access trade mark holder’s details by trawling through information which we need to publish to comply with our governing legislation. The companies sending these invoices are not associated with IP Australia or with any other government agency. You are not obligated to pay them to use our services.”

IP Australia provides more information here and states that before you pay any invoices, you should check:

  • if the invoice is from IP Australia or your trusted attorney or accountant
  • the real cost for your trade mark renewal. Be sure that any service fee above our renewal fees are going to offer you value for money.
  • the list below of companies that are known to send unofficial invoices
  • examples of unofficial invoices below
  • contact us to confirm your invoice is official

Never pay any “official” looking invoices without checking and protect yourself by making sure the invoice is from your trusted attorney or otherwise contact IP Australia to ensure the invoice is legitimate.

 

Jaclyn-Mae Floro, BCompSc

Contact W3IP Law on 1300 776 614 or 0451 951 528 for more information about any of our services or get in touch at law@w3iplaw.com.au.
Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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