Most of us are all too familiar with a variety of scam emails, text messages and phone calls. The IP world is also plagued with such scams, and IP owners should be aware of them.

As part of the procedure for the registration of IP rights such as patents, trade marks and designs, various details of the applicant and of the application are made public. Unfortunately, several disreputable companies use this information to target the IP owners and send them scam invoices. The companies sending the invoices often have official sounding names. These unsolicited invitations usually relate to the payment of a fee for entry of the IP right on to a register which looks and sounds official but in reality is not.

In a similar vein, we also often see emails from domain registrars in China and elsewhere claiming that a third party has tried to register a similar domain to that of your registered trade mark. These are usually just attempts to generate domain registration business.

So what should you do?

In the UK, the UKIPO advises that you can contact the Police or your local Trading Standards office. But doing so would of course involve time and effort. In practice, our advice is to simply ignore these communications.

To avoid the risk of falling victim to these scams, we recommend that you:

  1. Make your mailroom and accounts team aware of this issue so that “invoices” do not get mistakenly added to your system, authorised or paid.
  2. Check your accounts department workflow procedures to make sure that your invoice approval and payment flows are properly managed. Invoices relating to management of your own IP portfolio should only come from existing suppliers.
  3. If there is any doubt at all (or even if you just feel like a rant!), give your patent or trade mark attorney a call and double-check whether a communication is genuine or not.

Remember that if you have a representative such as a patent attorney handling the IP right concerned, you should never receive an invoice or request for payment directly from an official office.

This rather unpleasant trend is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but by paying attention to your systems and by having open and easy communications with your advisors you can avoid paying these unnecessary fees.

 

[1] https://www.epo.org/applying/fees/payment/warning.html

[2] https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/misleading-invoices

[3] https://www.wipo.int/madrid/en/fees/invoices.html

[4] https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/warning/pct_warning.html

 

At Scintilla, we help innovative companies get a grip on their intellectual property. Our unique commercial approach combines registration of patents and trade marks with strategic input so that IP can be a springboard for business growth. If you would like to discuss your IP needs, do contact us or book a free initial consultation!