Inventors and patentees should be on their guard for another crop of official-looking but bogus invoices and demands for payment, intended to part unwary patentees from large amounts of cash. These scams are a routine hazard of invention and can cover any form of registrable IP – designs and trade marks as well as patents – where names, addresses and other details are held on publicly open databases.
We’re grateful to inventor Bill Courtney for passing us a copy of this scam document recently sent to him:
Headed ‘Final reminder’, it contains in the big block of text a demand for £670 to keep his 2010 patent in force for another year.
Though the lengthy wording states that the document is not an invoice and does not come from an official IP body – presumably to keep it all just within the law – it could easily mislead someone expecting to pay a renewal fee at some point but unfamiliar with the process. It’s full of errors that make it obvious it isn’t genuine, but of course those errors won’t be obvious to everyone. Assuming it’s based on bulk mailings it only takes a handful of victims a month at £670 a go to be profitable.
The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is concerned about these scams and has a dedicated web page warning about them. As it states, typical ‘services’ on offer from scammers include:
- Renewal or registration of your patent(s) at a cost far in excess of official fees.
- Expensive entries in official-sounding directories, registers or databases that either don’t exist at all or are ‘ghost’ publications unknown to the wider world.
- Offers to apply for an EU-wide trade mark on your behalf.
Basic advice is simple: don’t send money to anyone until you’ve checked whether the demand or service is genuine. Don’t use any contact details on the document itself, as it may be a set-up – someone will be ready for you with a convincing confirmation story. Instead, contact IPO (or your national IP office outside the UK) and check it with them. If it’s a current and widespread scam, chances are they’ll know of it already. If not, they’ll quickly tell you whether your document is genuine – and they’ll probably be grateful to be sent a copy, so they can take action against the originators.