Trade Mark and Patent Scams to Watch Out For
It might be surprising to know that many unofficial third-party organisations scam Australian trade mark and patent owners. These scams are frustrating and costly, leaving many Australian IP owners unable to retrieve their lost funds. To help you avoid trade mark and patent scams, this article outlines:
- known features of trade mark and patent scams; and
- what you should do if you come across a scam.
Known Features of Trade Mark and Patent Scams
Although there have been more reported trade mark scams than patent scams, scamming activity happens concerning both forms of intellectual property. Below are some common features of these scams.
Feature #1: Timing
The timing of the scam often aligns with the renewal date of your registered trade mark or patent. Since both the trade mark and patent registry are available to the public, unofficial third-party organisations will often scan the registry and determine which applications are due for renewal. These organisations usually send them at the time of renewal, making their claim for renewal look convincing.
Therefore, you must be aware of the renewal period for your intellectual property. A registered trade mark is valid for 10 years after its filing date, and you can renew your trade mark application 12 months before its expiry date. On the other hand, a standard patent can give you up to 20 years of protection, and you must pay renewal fees annually from the fourth anniversary of the patent filing date onwards.
Feature #2: Cost
The scammer’s costs for trade mark and patent renewal is often significantly higher than the actual costs determined by IP Australia. For example, a scammer may ask a trade mark owner to pay over $1000 to renew a trade mark in one class, which is much more than the actual $400 cost for renewal in that class.
Feature #3: Company Names
There are lists of organisations that are known to issue unofficial invoices for trade marks and patents. Most of the organisations on the list have official-sounding names such as:
- ‘IPT Patents’;
- ‘Trademark and Patent Publications’; or
- ‘Patent & Trademark Office Pty Ltd.’
For this reason, it is important that you only respond to invoices that IP Australia sends to you. If another company has sent you an invoice, it would be wise to check the above lists to see if they are an unofficial third-party organisation.
What You Should Do if You Encounter a Scam
There are a number of things you can do if you come across a scam.
You should check the source of any invoice you receive before you pay money. These unofficial third parties will often frame their invoices as urgent, compelling business owners to pay quickly. If you receive an invoice, you should check whether:
- your invoice is from IP Australia;
- the costs for renewal are in line with the fees usually charged; and
- the company is a recognised scammer.
You can protect yourself further by registering for IP Australia’s online services. Doing so will ensure that you receive updates about the status of your trade marks and patents, especially when renewal fees are due.
You should also report the scamming behaviour. The lists compiled by IP Australia and WIPO rely on consumers coming forward and identifying any companies issuing unsolicited invoices. You can send copies of any trade mark or patent scams to IP Australia via their Unsolicited Correspondence Inbox.
Trade mark and patent scams are a common occurrence. To avoid paying for unsolicited services, you must be aware of the common features of these scams, such as the timing of the invoice, the fees they claim and whether they are recognised scammers. To protect your business from these scams, you must identify the source of these scams and report these unofficial companies to IP Australia. If you need further legal assistance with trade mark or patent scams, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist. Call us on 1300 657 423 or complete the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have sent money to an unofficial third party, it is unlikely that you will be able to retrieve it. To avoid other business owners from falling for the same scam, you should notify IP Australia of the scammers.
You can find an example of a scam here. This scam for trade mark renewal bears all the known features of common scams, such as an official-sounding company name and inflated renewal fees.
Scamwatch is an excellent resource run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which posts regular updates about avoiding, recognising and reporting scams.