Fraudsters are targeting small business owners when it is time to renew their trademark by sending false invoices.

IP Australia has confirmed that there is an increasing number of reports of this unofficial invoicing.

Several of our clients have received these fake invoices. We remind clients that they need to be checking the source of the invoice before they pay it.

Clients should not be fooled into thinking invoices are legitimate just because the sender appears to have their personal details and know the details of their trademark.

The companies that send out these invoices access trademark holder’s details by trawling through information, which is publicly available on the internet, due to IP Australia needing to publish it to comply with the governing legislation. When an application is lodged with IP Australia, the applicant’s details are published on the Trademarks Register and in the Trademarks Journal.

Scammers use this information to offer their services and send letters with invoices to be paid. Trademark renewal invoices should only come from IP Australia and not from other companies - do not get sucked in by their formal letterhead and official-sounding name.. Although some letters may look official, they are not associated with IP Australia or with any other government agency, have no authority from IP Australia or the government, and they will not assist you with your trademark as they promise.

A real life war story of one of these scams worked as follows:

  • the company identified a client’s trademark on the Australian Register that was coming due for renewal;
  • the client had one trademark in 3 classes;
  • it then sent a letter to the trademark owner advising that the trade mark is about to expire, and offering to attend to renewal for a fee of A$1350.00 for one class, and a further A$650.00 for each additional class – a total of $2,650.00;
  • the company advised that if the trademark owner signed and returned the letter, the company will pay the renewal fees and send out an invoice.
 
This company was charging way over and above the usual $400.00 renewal fee per class, ripping the client off by $1,450.00 for renewing the trade mark. The charges in the scam invoices are often more than twice the correct amount.

Other scams have involved fraudsters offering:

  • additional services relating to the trademark, such as trademark monitoring or renewal services;
  • trademark registration in another country;
  • associated services such as domain name registration or advertising material;
  • to protect the trademark via placement on an international trademark register - such registers have no official or legal standing to protect a client’s trademark.
 
These organisations often do not actually provide the support that they offer.

What Should You Do?

Before trademark owners pay any invoices they should check:

  • that the invoice is legitimately from IP Australia;
  • the real cost for the trade mark renewal;
  • if in doubt, contact IP Australia to confirm the invoice is official.
 
IP Australia is aware of the scams and has published helpful information on their website, including details about the organisations and the types of letters or offers you are likely to receive. However, since most of these companies are overseas, action cannot always be taken against them.

The IP Australia website lists 24 different fake Trademark registration agencies, in countries ranging from Germany to Liechtenstein, with official sounding names like: Intellectual Property Organisation, European Patent Office and Community Trademark Office. The ACCC’s ScamWatch is also warning Australian businesses to beware of fake invoices for domain name renewal, trade directory listing, advertising services, etc.

Clients should notify IP Australia if they receive one of these fake invoices. You can email IP Australia any correspondence you may receive to check the legitimacy of the document.

For more information contact one of our expert team or visit the IP Australia website.