The UK Intellectual Property Office fights back against fraudsters
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of scam invoices being sent to trade mark applicants by fraudulent companies purporting to offer genuine intellectual property services.
These deceptive practices involve seemingly official invoices and notices in relation to trade mark applications and renewals where payment of absurd amounts of money is sought. The invoices and notices often suggest that official fees are due and that the trade mark will be listed on a European register subject to payment of a fee. In the majority of cases no work is undertaken. The companies trawl the official registries looking for new applications and typically write to applicants within days of their application being filed..
In the UK, the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has been actively trying to combat fraudsters and has recently filed a claim of passing off at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) against two of the offending companies, namely: Patent and Trade Mark Office and Trade Mark Organisation. The IPO's claim was successful, a settlement was reached and the IPO's costs were recovered. The offending companies were also required to comply with an order of the IPEC barring them from committing any further acts of passing off. The IPO is currently pursuing proceedings against other fraudulent companies.
In conjunction with the IPO's efforts to crack down on these scams, the Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market (OHIM) has established an anti-fraud network which covers the following areas: IT measures; communication; legal action; and cooperation. The network is comprised of several official intellectual property organisations worldwide who hope, by working together, to reduce this fraudulent activity. As the network gathers momentum it will be interesting to see what strategies are proposed and whether they will be effective in combating this crime.
Trade mark owners need to be aware of this threat and those who suspect that they have received fraudulent notices or invoices are being asked to bring them to the attention of their national official intellectual property office. The OHIM and World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) have also provided lists of known scam companies on their websites which are available to you.
Please use this link to access the OHIM's database.
Please use this link to access the WIPO's database.
For more information on this issue or if you have any queries please contact the Blake Morgan intellectual property team.