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The UK IPO and scam invoices

Print publication

13/01/2016


In recent years an increasing number of clients have received solicitations encouraging them to submit payment for trade mark services. The correspondence originates from organisations with official-sounding names, but which are not in fact associated with the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) or the European Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market.

The services offered typically include:

  • trade mark renewal services for fees greatly in excess of official fees;
  • entries into publications or registers which do not appear to offer any additional benefit than the official trade mark register which is a free database; and
  • Community trade mark filing – an offer to apply for EU-wide trade mark protection at inflated prices.

A recent case is indicative of the nuisance. A company trading as “Intellectual Property Agency Ltd” (IPA) regularly sent letters to trade mark proprietors reminding them of their trade mark (and patent) renewal fees and requested payment, typically of up to six times the actual renewal fee. The UK IPO instituted proceedings in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court for trade mark infringement and passing off against IPA and its director, a Mr Jonasson. Both the IPA and Mr Jonasson were found to have deliberately set out to deceive proprietors into thinking that their letters and invoices were issued by the UK IPO and were jointly liable for trade mark infringement and passing off. They were ordered to pay £500,000 plus legal costs.

Should you receive such solicitations please contact the Walker Morris Trade Marks and Designs Unit and refrain from making any payments to organisations offering trade mark services until their authenticity has been assessed.