Trade mark scam invoices
by Nick Davies, 12 February 2018
This scam has been around for years but we still hear from clients who have either fallen for the scam or who are concerned to establish whether an ‘invoice’ they have received is genuine or not.
The scam is very simple in operation;
- When you file a UK TM or EU TM application your application and your contact details (registered office address if the applicant is a company) are published in the IP Office Trade Mark Journal (for UK TMs) or the Official Journal (for EU TMs);
- Unscrupulous companies collect contact details from these official publications and then write to applicants and offer, in return for a fee, to publicise their application in the unscrupulous companies private or internet database;
- These offers are often mistaken by applicants for genuine invoices from official bodies and are often mistakenly and unnecessarily paid;
- On a recent EU TM application I submitted for a local client I received 4 such scam invoices ranging in amount from €986 to €1,714.50 so the sums involved are fairly significant.
If you check carefully the small print at the bottom of these scam ‘invoices’ you can see that these are not invoices at all but are an ‘offer’ for your application to appear in a private or internet database. These offers sometimes state they are not related to official bodies but sometimes they do not make any such statement so it is easy to see how applicants fall for this scam. The reverse side of these offers usually contain a full page of further small print terms and conditions and in our experience it is usually very hard, if not impossible, to recover sums once they have been paid. This is due in part because very few of these companies are based in the UK and are usually based in Hungary, Lithuania, Malta or other such countries.
There have been convictions in relation to these scams. On June 23, 2016, the District Court in Uppsala, Sweden, found five individuals guilty of attempted aggravated fraud, aiding and abetting attempted aggravated fraud and attempted fraud in connection with the issuing of fraudulent invoices.
What can you do to avoid being scammed?
1. If you are not sure if an ‘invoice’ you have received is genuine or not you can refer to the UK and EU guidance here;
- UK - https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/warning-misleading-invoices#misleading-invoices-documents
- EU - https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/misleading-invoices
2. Get in touch and I would be pleased to advise.
3. Consider changing your registered office address to your Solicitors address so that these scam invoices can be intercepted before they land in your accounts department and are mistakenly paid!