How to recognise Trade Mark scams
15 August 2014 by Michael Downing
Protecting your business name and ideas is a must if you want to avoid other businesses and your competitors from stealing your identity, which is why getting these trademarked is important to your business.
When applying for a trademark during your application process, you may be a victim of trademark scams, where organisations send non-official invoices and letters requesting information and/or fees, which are misleading and look very professional.
These companies who look like official government departments try to target victims into paying for listings, registrations and other services that either do not exist or have little or no value.
One critical piece of information they publish is the date of registration and, by implication, when it's due for renewal. They can also lure you into paying the fees by including in the letter or invoice the chance to “get in quick” before a non-existent company registers your trademark.
As the Trademark register is open for public use this enables the trademark scam artists to send out what appear to be official reminders, warning recipients that their legal protection will lapse if they don't take immediate action and pay them now.
What services do these letters offer?
- Renewal of your IP right – they usually charge fees greatly in excess of official fees.
- Entries into non-existent publications or registers – these can sound very official and will generally look like they come from government departments.
- Community trade mark filing – an offer to apply for EU-wide trade mark protection.
Trademark scams – what to look out for:
- Read the small print – bogus invoices will have written in the small print that “You are not obliged to pay the amount stated above unless you accept the offer”.
- Check the address from where the letter, email or invoice has been sent – if they are from any other country than the one you are applying to, this is probably not legit. Pay particular attention to any companies who are based in China and Eastern Europe.
- Check the company requesting information or fees has affiliation to the Intellectual Property Office.
- Extortionate fees – IP rights often need renewing, this should cost in the region of £350. If the fee they are requesting is marginally higher, consult an IP professional.
A number of non-official companies have been reported to The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), we have included some of them below:
- Trademark Renewal Service Ltd
- Patent & Trademark Office
- World Patent Trademarks
- European Trademark Agency
- Universal Patent & Trademark Service
- International Patent & Trademark Registration
The CIPA have listed the only offices that provide legal protection for trademarks, 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)
Why work with a trademark specialist?
Here at Downing IP we work with our clients to support and guide them through the trademark application process ensuring the process is as smooth as possible. By working with a trademark specialist you can seek professional guidance if you were to receive any misleading invoices, emails or letters from companies who look like they are trading illegally.
We have worked with many clients who have been a victim of these trademark scams. Most of our clients have come to us at the right time, before they have made any payments, but for some it’s unfortunately at a point when they have paid the fees and had no results.
The golden rule is to seek advice from an Intellectual Property (IP) trademark specialist before making your application so you can ensure you are protected. If you have been the victim of a trademark scam or simply need help with your trademark application, Downing IP are here to help. For confidential, professional advice please contact us on 01494 422626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. As specialists in the field of Intellectual Property, Downing IP can also help with your Patent application and Design protection.