It is important that applicants, proprietors and agents authenticate all requests for payment that are received in relation to their intellectual property.
It is apparent from warnings issued by the Irish Patents Office (“IPO”), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”), and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (“WIPO”) that stakeholders have been receiving fraudulent fee requests purporting to be from an official office. This is on a world-wide scale and other intellectual property offices such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) have issued similar warnings.
While an unofficial notice may come from a legitimate company, there is a likelihood that it may be a scam and stakeholders should be vigilant.
How is this information gleaned?
When a trade mark application is submitted, it contains information such as the applicant’s physical address or the email address of the applicant or its representative.
Once a trade mark is registered, the official register will outline the particulars of the trade mark including registration date, registration number and renewal dates.
This is easily accessible information which has the potential to be used by scammers.
Examples of Scams
The EUIPO, WIPO and USPTO have set out examples of unofficial notices received. Typically, the notice will appear to be issued by an intellectual property office and seek payment of a fee in relation to the trade mark.
Other types of scams include domain name scams in which the scammer will state that the protection of your registered domain name is in jeopardy and seeking instructions to vindicate your intellectual property rights.
For examples of scams related to EUIPO, please click here.
For examples of scams related to WIPO, please click here.
USPTO has also set out some examples of Non-USPTO solicitations, please click here.
Additionally, the USPTO has published a list of complaints that they have received in relation to unscrupulous practices, please click here.
What should you do when you receive a request for payment or correspondence from an unfamiliar entity?
In the first instance, please forward any requests for payment to a trade mark professional such as FRKelly who will assess the validity of the correspondence. If the correspondence is suspect, it will then be reported to the relevant intellectual property office.
As stated previously, scams may not just take the form of requests for fees. You may be contacted by an individual or company who states that your intellectual property is under threat and that they can assist you. Please research anyone you are not familiar with to ensure they are legitimate.
If you would like to learn more on this issue, please contact Mary Bleahene, European Trade Mark Attorney.