IP "scams" and misleading invoices
IP professionals and their clients are often the target of various scams. Examples include using fake WIPO e-mails as well as fake WIPO websites, faxes and telephone numbers – more details of these can be seen at www.wipo.int/portal/en/scam_warning.html. Also see the IPO website at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/warning.htm.
Other examples are of organisations sending patent, trade mark and design applicants something that looks very much like an official invoice, sometimes it gets paid. CIPA has created this page to try and raise awareness amongst IP owners and their advisers of the various IP scams that exist. This page will be updated as new scams are brought to our attention.
On the documents listed below details identifying the IP owners have been removed. Thank you to all the members who have taken the time to inform CIPA about these. If you have details of any similar invoices please let us know and we will add the details. Please e-mail examples to Iain Ross – email@example.com and/or to the IPO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New!: International Patent and Trademark Registration, June 2013
In June 2012, another misleading invoice was brought to our attention. This time from the Brussels-based International Patent and Trademark Registration. They even use a very official looking EU flag. For just under €2000 you can get your registered IP right listed on its website.
Click here to see an example of the invoice. As usual details that identify the IP owner have been removed.
ASA rules against Trademark Renewal Service Ltd
On 5 June 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against Trademark Renewal Service Ltd.
Click here for more details.
Final Reminders: Patent & Trademark Office
In Spring 2013, the Patent & Trademarks Office started to send out "Final Reminders", on top of its original misleading invoices mentioned below.
Click here to see an example. As usual details that identify the IP owner have been removed.
IPO warning: misleading invoices - do not be fooled
In April 2013, the IPO set up a page to warn of misleading invoices. Click here to see more.
The IPO notice points out that the following four are the only offices that provide legal protection for trade marks, patents and designs in the UK:
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
The European Patent Office (EPO)
The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM)
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
New suspect invoice: Universal Patents and Trademarks Service (UPTS)
Another suspect invoice was brought to our attention by a CIPA member in March 2013. A name we have not seen before - UPTS or Universal Patents and Trademarks Service - but like some others listed below operating out of the Czech and Slovak republics. Click here to see an example of the suspect invoice.
European Trademark Agency
Yet another bogus invoice from late 2012. This time it is the Brussels-based European Trademark Agency. Click here to see an example of a bogus invoice.
As noted by one of our members, "This is a particularly worrying example, since the heading implies that the originator is an agency of the European Commission. "
WIPT - World Patent Trademarks, November 2012
Below is another example of a bogus tarde mark "invoice" from November 2012 (and brought to our attention by a member in January 2013), From a Slovak-based organisation, the World Patent Trademarks, it even has a poor attempt at the WIPO logo. See the website is www.wipt.biz.
Click here to see an example "invoice".
Patent & Trademark Office
A new scam doing the rounds in February 2013 is the "Patent & Trademark Office", based on Euston Road in London.
Click here to see an example of what they send. They also include a paid for envelope for IP owners to send payment. They also operate a plausible looking website at http://www.trademarkoffice.org.uk/uks/?Home_Page. As usual with these set ups, there is no mention of any individuals name to be found.
Thank you to the many members and IP owners who have pointed this out, and taken the time to inform the IPO. Please do let Iain Ross have any further examples. Members can also see comments on the this on CIPA's LinkedIn group.
Click here to see more comments from IPKat.
CRPT Central Register for Patents and Trademarks
On 28 October 2011, comments from a CIPA Fellow on the CRPT Central Register for Patents and Trademarks were posted on the IPKat blog - click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page for further details.
Intellectual Property Agency Ltd - still active
In October 2011, we were first alerted that the "London-based" Intellectual Property Agency Ltd is still active (the company is registered in the Seychelles). As we were warned:
'The nature of the supposed "reminder" was totally deceptive and designed to look like an official demand for payment whilst implying that we would lose our trade mark if we did not respond immediately. Thankfully, the "scam" was brought to our attention by our official legal representatives in time but I thought we should bring this to your attention in case any other companies are on the receiving end of a similar approach in the future.'
In February 2013 payment reminders were still being sent out by this organisation.
"Scammy Trade mark Registers"
On 2 August 2011, the IPKat posted an item on IP scams. Click here for more details.
"Official" requests for payments
In July 2010, MARQUES Class 46 weblog posted the an update of its little guide to the practice of IP offices regarding the receipt by users of their patent and trade mark systems of apparently official requests for payments. Click here for more details.
Click here for more comments from the IPKat.
Central Patent & Trademark Database (CPTF)
In February 2011, this “invoice” was received from the Czech Republic, but posted in Hong Kong:
Below are three bogus invoices that a CIPA Fellow became aware of in February 2011. The documents request payment within eight days; this caused a client inventor a great deal of aggravation as he thought that the invoices were genuine. He was advised to ignore the invoices.
The PDF below has the text from an e-mail, which was received by a member's client in January 2011.
In July 2010, the “invoice” below, from a UK-based orgaisation, was brought to our attention by a CIPA Fellow.
He also pointed out:
“If not actually a scam, £1280 is certainly an extortionate price for renewal of a UK trade mark in one class. Intellectual Property Agency Ltd must be relying on their confusing name and the form-like nature of the "Reminder" to deceive ill-informed recipients into thinking this is an official demand, which they have no choice but to pay. The Terms and Conditions on the back of the reminder are too small and faint to be copied (!) but there is a link to them at the bottom of IPA's website here: http://www.intellectualpropertyagency.org/. Clause 1(b) in particular is interesting: it gives IPA a unilateral right to alter the Agreement, without notice, after it has been entered into! I have notified the City of London Trading Standards and the IPO of our concern."
Sent on to CIPA in June 2010, the PDF below has a collection of example invoices from a host of organisations sent to a Fellow’s company over the years. As the Fellow points out:
“The numbers of such documents is quite surprising because we are only a small company and makes one wonder how many such items are received by the accounts personnel of large companies, which personnel may have authority to pay bills for insubstantial amounts, say up to £2000. This activity needs to be curtailed as soon as possible; however, I believe that the fraud squad cannot necessarily take any action because upon payment of the scam invoices, the details of the payees lPRs will be included in a 'Register' of no import.”
Example of faux invoices
(FIPTR; ODM; IBIP; Community Trade Mark Filing Support; European Trade marks [sic] and Designs; CRPSL; International Bureau for Federated Trademark & Patent Register)