What are the tell tale warning signs of a fake invoice relating to IP rights? What should IP owners be mindful of?
Warning sign 1: If you have an official and recorded representative, you should not receive any invoices other than those from that appointed party.
Warning sign 2: Often the fake invoices will use names, personal information, acronyms and/or logos which are very similar to the official organisations. These invoices will often request payment for a service such as:
- Renewal of your IP rights
- Publication/Registration of your IP rights
- Expansion of your IP rights
- Other IP related services
Warning sign 3: Fake invoices will often request payment for publication in an independent database or journal. These databases have no legal effect - only the responsible Intellectual Property Offices around the world can publish and register IP rights with legal effect. These are the UKIPO, EPO, WIPO, EUIPO. There is no separate fee for publication of an IP right, as this is an automatic process.
What sorts of invoices relating to IP rights are IP owners likely to receive directly that are legitimate?
If you have an official, recorded representative, you should only receive invoices directly from that party. Please note, the UK and EP/EU Offices do not issue any invoices directly to applicants. Instead the IP Offices will send a notification which will direct the applicant to the official webpages, where a secure payment can be made. If in doubt on any invoices you receive, check with your IP professional. It’s always better to check an unsolicited or suspicious invoice, before any payment is made.
What should IP owners do if you receive a suspicious looking invoice?
If you receive an invoice which at all seems suspicious, you should immediately contact your IP professional. In the event you do not have a recorded representative, you can contact the relevant Intellectual Property Office, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA) or the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA). Do not use the contact details provided on the invoice.
Examples of misleading invoices and a list of sources can be found on the WIPO website
Do not make payment of any suspicious invoice without first validating its authenticity. If you receive a fraudulent invoice you should report this to Action Fraud. Action Fraud is an online portal, operated by the City of London police, for reporting all types of fraud.
The UK IPO successfully took action against the Intellectual Property Agency (IPA) for TM infringement/passing off. Read the story here.