Recently, there has been a reported increase in misleading requests for payment of so-called “publication” or “registration” fees from “official sounding” organizations in connection with patent, trademark or design applications (“Misleading Payment Request Scams”). These requests are designed to appear as official intellectual property office correspondence (e.g. using similar logos and names to official intellectual property offices) and are typically sent directly to applicants. Patent and trademark applicants should critically review any unsolicited request for payment of fees from an unfamiliar organization.
Misleading Payment Request Scams target applicants through the use of applicant’s contact information contained in documents published on official websites. Typically, the communication appears on its face to be a request for payment of registration fees, renewal fees, publication fees, or monitoring services. To enhance legitimacy, Misleading Payment Request Scams may even warn users of other scam requests for payment and/or include fine-print declaring that the instant document is not an official invoice but rather a contract for services.
Misleading Payment Request Scams often utilize names and logos which are confusingly similar to those of an official organization (e.g. CIPO, USPTO, WIPO). Known sham organizations that are reported to be sending Misleading Payment Requests are listed below. This listing is not comprehensive and additional organizations are likely to emerge over time.
- Euro IP Register
- European Central Register of Brands and Patents
- FOIP - Federated Organization for Intellectual Property
- IBFTPR - International Bureau for Federated Trademark & Patent Register
- IOIP - International Organization for Intellectual Property
- IOPR - Intellectual Office Property Register
- IP DATA - Register of International Patents
- IPT PATENTS - Register of International Patents
- IPTR - International Patent and Trademark Register
- IPTS - International Patent and Trademark Service
- Novislink limited
- ODM – Office Data Management
- REGIPAT - European Register of Brands and Patents
- RIPT - Registration of International Patent
- TPS - Trademark and Patent Service
- UPTS - Universal Patents and Trademarks Service
- WBIP - World Bureau for Intellectual Property
- WDTP - Worldwide Database of Trademarks and Patents
- WPTI - World Patent and Trademark Index
Typically official communications including invoices are sent directly to patent or trademark agent representatives and not directly to applicants. Accordingly, applicants that receive a request for payment of fees from an unfamiliar organization are encouraged to contact their patent, trademark or design agent representative immediately to confirm the authenticity of the request.
For examples of Misleading Payment Requests, see postings by WIPO here, and by the USPTO here. WIPO encourages recipients to report new examples to email@example.com for patents, or to firstname.lastname@example.org for trade marks. The USPTO encourages recipients to file an on-line consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.