The organisation responsible for managing all UK trade marks, registered designs and patents is the UK Intellectual Property Office (the IPO). Fraudulent organisations posing as the IPO are common, with such bodies often mailing official looking letters to individuals or businesses offering to renew UK trade mark/registered design/patent registrations in return for fees.

Until recently the IPO did not appear to be taking any action in response to these sham operations, however, in May of this year, it issued proceedings for passing off against the “Patent and Trademark Office” and the “Patent and Trade Mark Organisation” as well as against the individuals trading respectively through them, Aleksandrs Radcuks and Igors Villers. According to a recent IPO announcement the defendants have admitted and settled the claims and agreed to be bound by an order of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, prohibiting them from further acts of passing off. The defendants had been issuing fake ‘renewal’ notices to holders of UK registered patents and trademarks - offering to renew the rights for fees greatly in excess of the official renewal fees. A number of individuals and/businesses were misled into paying the fees.

The IPO has confirmed that proceedings are pending against another organisation engaged in similar practices.

The announcement is a reminder that, if you manage your own UK trade marks, registered designs or patents, it is important to check that any correspondence which you might receive – including requests for payment – originates in relation to those registrations from the genuine UK IPO. This is the only organisation authorised to register and manage UK registered intellectual property rights. If in doubt a solicitor or trade mark or patent attorney will be able to assist. Note that if you already instruct such professionals to manage your trade mark, registered design and/or patent registration(s) for you, the IPO will contact them directly in relation to any official notifications or renewal fees. This means that, if you do receive a request for payment, it is likely to be fraudulent.