Things to watch out for Part 1: The IP Scam Letter

Shortly after incorporating my company, I applied to register my trade mark. As well as the primary benefit of giving me a legally enforceable instrument to prevent others from trading with that name (or a confusingly similar name) in my or related commercial fields, it also provides ancillary benefits, such as providing me with a means, should I ever require it, to object to domain name registrations or the misappropriation of the trade mark as adwords. Its a sensible thing for any brand owner to do – and as all businesses have brands, its something all businesses should do.

Registering a trade mark does mean putting your address onto a public record. And unfortunately, many unscrupulous companies use this fact to perpetrate a fairly underhanded scheme. Often once your application has just been filed, when its published in the official journal, or at any point really, a letter will be sent offering the applicant the chance for “registration” for a fee – the one I received was for 970 euros.

It looks official and it refers to a worldwide register. The unwary could believe that they are getting a good deal for worldwide registration. Bank details are provided, they have recreated your trade mark and its specification it all looks so easy. You just have to pay. And unfortunately some people do because even if you have appointed an attorney as your address for service, these people are smart enough to bypass the attorney and come straight to you at the address that has been marked on your application.

What do you get for your 970 euros? Not a lot. On closer inspection you find the “register” (if it even exists) is a private one, and has no legal authority.

These scams are not limited to trade mark applications. Applications for patents and design registrations may also trigger one of these letters.

If you have appointed an attorney, any official request for fees will be addressed to them and they will advise which ones need paid and when. Any letter that you receive requesting a payment that does not come from your attorney or (if you are unrepresented) the Patent Office that you are dealing with should be treated with absolute caution. Read it carefully. What are you being offered for payment? Why has it been sent? Ask your attorney about it.

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S. William Wallace & Company is a trading name of S. William Wallace & Company Limited. Registration No. 466189 (Scotland). Registered office at Caledonian Suite Regent Court 70 West Regent Street Glasgow G2 2QZ. T: +44 (0) 141 333 6534. S. William Wallace & Company is regulated by IPReg.

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