A timely reminder to patentees and patent applicants, and owners of other registered IP rights: bogus invoices are on the rise.
The details of a patent property (and other IP registrations) are publically available in one or more outline databases. As such, information includes names, addresses and official IP property details are available to be used by fraudsters looking to take advantage of unsuspecting owners who may not be overly experienced in the IP realm and/or may not be overly careful in reviewing correspondence.
Fraudulent invoice correspondence often looks as professional and genuine as legitimate invoices. The fraudsters will prey on the owner simply paying an invoice because they think it is legitimate, or simply paying it as a default as they do not have the time to review it properly.
As a general rule of thumb, if an invoice has come from a party that you are not familiar with, it is more than likely a fraudulent invoice. Any invoice from an official body should automatically be questioned as official bodies rarely if ever issue invoices directly to rights holders.
Furthermore, any invoice that requests an owner to pay to an account in a foreign country should ring alarm bells. If you are primarily dealing with an Australian attorney, this will be a telltale sign that the invoice is bogus as legitimate Australian businesses will provide a local account for payment.
It is noted that renewal/maintenance fee invoices are most often the type of invoices that are fraudulent.
Some examples of fraudulent invoices are found here.
In summary, IP owners should take the following steps to ensure they are not tricked into paying a fake or fraudulent invoice:
- Always carefully review correspondence, particularly invoice correspondence.
- If the sender of correspondence is not a company that you recognise, it may well be fraudulent.
- Finally, if in doubt, contact your patent attorney.