Have you received a letter out-of-the-blue recently from an unfamiliar agency asking you to pay a fee to register your European Patent application?
Here are two examples (example 1 and example 2) of official looking letters recently received by one of our clients. One letter is from the World Patent & Trademark Agency, and the other is from the European Intellectual Property Agency (EIPA). Both agencies are offering to register our client’s European patent application upon payment of a fee.
These letters appear genuine, but they are not – they are scams. These so-called “agencies” are actually private companies who will monitor the European Patent Register for any recently published European patent applications, and then use the freely available bibliographic information to directly target Applicants.
These scams are not limited to European patent applications – they can be directed towards any pending or granted patents and trademarks in your portfolio; and they may instead offer to publish or renew your rights in exchange for a fee.
What to look out for?
A scam letter can usually be identified by the following tell-tale signs:
- In the fine print, the company will admit that the service provided is not related to any government entity. The services offered will therefore have no legally binding effect.
- Also look out for poor spelling and grammar throughout the letter, in particular in the fine print.
- Any official communications relating to your IP will normally be directed to your IP provider, but these scam letters are sent directly to you.
- The letter will usually be issued shortly after publication of your application or patent. You may receive several letters around the same time from different “agencies” all offering the same or similar services in exchange for a fee.
What to do?
If you receive a request for payment from an unfamiliar source, do not pay any fees until you can confirm the source is genuine. In the first instance we would recommend immediately forwarding the letter to your usual IP provider for advice.
Our client followed best practice and immediately brought these two letters to our attention, and we were therefore able to advise them not to pay any of the fees.
Christina Schiavone, UK Patent Attorney & European Patent Attorney
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