If you are a trade mark owner, the chances are you have been contacted directly by organisations purporting to extend protection of your trade mark to Europe, offering entry on what sounds like an official sounding register or else offering to renew your registrations. These communications often take the form of pro-forma invoices and tend to look both bona fide and official. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the unsuspecting trade mark owner risks being misled into making excessive payments to these organisations.

On August 18, 2014, the UK Intellectual Property Office announced success in actions for passing off against two of the most blatant offenders, “Patent and Trademark Office” and “Patent and Trade Mark Organisation”, and the people behind these organisations. The claims were admitted and settled and the perpetrators have agreed to be bound by an Order of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court prohibiting them from further acts of passing off. Furthermore, a substantial payment has been made to the IPO in respect of their legal costs. Further proceedings are pending against another organisation engaged in similar practices.

The Advertising Standards Authority has also been busy, ruling against three further companies in relation to misleading invoices.

If you receive an unsolicited invitation or invoice, DO NOT PAY IT until you have checked to see what services are being offered and if it is from an official source. These companies are not linked to any government or community institution. You are NOT obliged to pay their fees.