Intellectual Property Scams

Posted by Shieff Angland on May 4 2016 in News

We have received an increasing amount of letters addressed to our clients that include unsolicited requests for payments to third party scam organisations. These letters target recent trade mark applicants, posing as official “trade mark database” or “government” organisation and request payments for invented fees such as for publishing or registration.

Invariably, these letters are not from any official government organisation, nor are they an organisation that our clients should be dealing with. Their requests for payment have no role in protecting our client’s trade marks or other of their intellectual property concerns.

The most common of scams are the trade mark database scams and the unsolicited trade mark reminders.

  • Trade mark database scams: These scams usually involve a scammer sending a trade mark applicant an invoice for publishing trade mark registrations in an international database that it has set up. Whether the database actually exists or not, the invoice is sent in an official manner as if it is part of the registration process. It is not, and the “publishing” is immaterial to the registration of an applicant’s mark.
  • Unsolicited trade mark renewal reminders: These “reminder” letters appear to be sent by official organisations and offer to renew New Zealand trade mark registrations at costs significantly more than what most IP agents would charge.

Increasingly these scam organisations are becoming more sophisticated and taking contact details from official trade mark databases so that they can contact trade mark applicants directly, hoping to elicit payments from unsuspecting account departments and/or company management.

Accordingly, you should be wary of any unsolicited correspondence relating to your IP, and if it’s not from your IP agent or Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), then likely it’s a scam.

We recommend that you contact us in the first instance so that we can assess the authenticity of the correspondence and until such time as we do, you should refrain from engaging with the sender.

IPONZ has also recently put a notice up on its website about this and other similar scams.

If you would like more information regarding the above, or have any questions, please contact us.

Shelley Eden, Partner
Contact her on +64 9 300 8756 or shelley.eden@shieffangland.co.nz

Brandon Chik, Associate
Contact him on +64 9 300 8751 or brandon.chik@shieffangland.co.nz

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.