How to identify Trademark Scams and Invoice Fraud
21 December 2014 by Michael Downing
The whole notion of trademark, patent and domain name protection has become increasingly important. Protection is crucial in this entrepreneurial age when millions of enterprising people are setting up businesses and developing inventions and ideas — but it also opens the door to potential trademark invoice scams.
There are basically two sorts of fraud that we see day in, day out – the first is where the scammer offers to do something that doesn’t need to be done, and the second is where they offer to do something that does need doing, but their price is ridiculously inflated.
Both categories often include a misleading invoice offering services to help protect your Intellectual Property rights in return for a fee. If you’re not familiar with these scams, you’re at risk of paying hundreds to thousands of pounds. Scammers and fraudsters are nothing new, but their tactics and methods are always changing and becoming ever more sophisticated.
Usually these types of invoices arrive in the post and appear to be from an official trademark registration office. Included with the invoice is either a copy of the application that has been filed by your organisation, or a blank trademark application that needs to be completed and submitted with payment by the expiry date. Often they stay inside the strict letter of the law by burying a disclaimer in the small print.
If you think you are a victim of an invoice scam and are not sure if the company who has sent you an invoice are legit we recommend the following:
1. Check whether the company requesting fees is actually the Intellectual Property Office in question. They, or any attorney that you have appointed, are the only ones you should be paying fees to.
2. Read the document thoroughly. If it’s a legal trick, it may say somewhere that it’s a solicitation, not a bill.
3. Research the exact name of the organisation that sent out the invoice
4. Contact or look at the website of where you originally registered the name, patent, domain or trademark.
5. Do not ignore the small print, the clues that something is a scam are often hidden there
6. Check the invoice over with your patent or trademark attorney. Most will be more than happy to look at the invoice quickly and let you know if it is a scam.
If you read the fine print, you’ll find that most of these documents are not invoices, but solicitations. There is usually no obligation to pay, unless the form is filled out and submitted, in which case you will have inadvertently accepted the bogus offer and may have entered into a binding payment agreement. A number of non-official companies have been reported to The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), we have included some of them below:
1. Trademark Renewal Service Ltd
2. Patent & Trademark Office
3. World Patent Trademarks
4. European Trademark Agency
5. Universal Patent & Trademark Service
6. International Patent & Trademark Registration
Some other bogus invoices are more obvious trademark scams. They come from Eastern Europe or China and offer inclusion in dubious publications like an international register or catalogue of trademarks. If such publications exist, they provide no legal protection for trademarks, but the perpetrators still ask victims to pay If in doubt, rights owners should check with their patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor, patent advisor or inventor-support organisation.
If you have been the victim of a trademark invoice scam, would like advice on an invoice you have received or need help with your trademark application, Downing IP are here to help. For confidential, professional advice please contact us on 01494 422626 or email email@example.com