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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

PCT Billing Scams


According to a WIPO press release issued recently, a Florida-based company, “Federated Institute for Patent and Trademark Registry” (FIPTR), has been caught running various scams involving sending out misleading letters to IP rights holders that look like invoices. Some of these were aimed at applicants for international patent applications, but many others involved requests for payment for supposedly registering trade mark rights and copyrights. These services had, of course, no value.

All this comes as welcome news to the IPKat's ears, but he suspects that there are many more unscrupulous operators out there who will be carrying on regardless. From recent personal experience he knows of at least two that are currently operating, one being known as International Bureau for Intellectual Property (their logo is pictured here on the left), the other known as the Register of International Patents. Redacted example letters from each can be viewed here and here, courtesy of the IPKat's Google Groups file server. The client in each case was, of course, told to ignore the letters but the IPKat has a nagging feeling that perhaps not all clients would be sufficiently suspicious of such official-looking letters.

Bearing in mind the similar trade-mark related scam the IPKat reported here, do the IPKat's readers have any further thoughts, examples of other similar scam merchants, or perhaps any ideas of what to do with them?

10 comments:

Derek said...

WIPO is very good about posting copies of any scam letters reported to them on their website (http://www.wipo.int/pct/en/warning/pct_warning.htm) - they have quite a collection and indeed I think I was the first to report FIPTR to them. I'm delighted that they and the State of Florida, on behalf of the applicant community, have managed to hit back at one of these scam artists; and perhaps some of the other jurisdictions in which these villains operate will do the same.

Guy said...

Scams of the type mentioned have been around for at least 25 years to my knowledge. The MO is always to write direct to the rights owner and never the address for service. Owners who have had the good sense to call their professional advisors have been told to bin the documents. Others, who believe by paying direct they will avoid attorney costs, have paid up. Eventually pressure on the legal authorities in the country base results in the scam merchant being closed down. However they work on the phoenix principle and reappear elsewhere. There is obviously money being made or this would not happen. [Some years ago a particularly active "register" was operated from Switzerand. In response to complaints the Swiss authorities said no offence was being committed as they only sent their "invoices" to people outside Switzerland.".

Anonymous said...

These days nearly ALL my clients receive such scam letters. The volume has reached the point where we are going to send our clients a form letter warning them about this and I hope others in my professsion can do so too.

The TradeMarcovs' said...

My clients received a paper looking as invoice from the FIPTR, charging them triple the basic international fee plus all designations. They were stupid enough to pay without asking their professional representative. (It’s interesting, that FIPTR are approaching the right holder directly) The happy end is in a mistake concerning the bank account – so they received there money back minus expenses.
The explanations for the plausible advantages are meager. The charge is for creating a link in a cite to the existing data bases of registered subject-matter.
Isn’t the trade name FIPTR false or misleading (I suppose it depends on the applicable company law)?

Dr. Michael Factor said...

I am pleased that WIPO have posted this and that you have reported.

I try to report these type of scams on my blog as well. If all IP blogs report, then recipients who do the minimal internet search will see that the service is a scam. Preferably, the title should be FIPTR is yet another scam" or similar, to have maximum effect.

I probably reassure about 1/3 of my clients filing PCT applications, and expect that other practitioners do as well.

It wastes time, but is a good a way as any to keep in touch with clients.

Anonymous said...

Some care is needed or this sort of thing might drop through your letterbox:

http://www.ip-brands.com/files/C.pdf

Anonymous said...

The current one doing the rounds in the UK is from 'Intellectual Property Agency Ltd' - with official-looking 'Reminders' being sent to trade mark owners three months before their TMs' renewal date. No - £980 & £220 in class fees is NOT a reasonable fee to pay to renew a trade mark, even were this figure to include official fees - which is unclear.

Strangely, this 'company' seems to have changed its company registration number from '65968' (Seychelles) to '80014'(who knows what jurisdiction) sometime between writing to my my client last week, and me looking at its website!

In fact, IPKat might wish to run one of his legendary competitions, with a prize for whomever spots the most number of breaches of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (and other such laws) in this company's standard terms and conditions. (By the way, I do like the bit about "reassigning" trade marks to someone else if a customer is late in paying or decides not to renew!) Readers who have not been sent in a 'Reminder' from their clients can view the T&Cs here: www.intellectual propertyagency.org.

More seriously, in the absence of outright fraud, the only people who can take action are the individual Registries, enforcing their copyright and database rights. If their excuse for inaction is that it is too difficult to actually enforce their IP rights in the courts, then there is something very wrong with the whole system!

I hope this comment (and others like it) will appear if anyone Googles this company's name. I suggest that readers actively comment on all such companies, to ensure the consumer is fully informed.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 09:55

One of my clients has just received the Intellectual Property Agency Ltd "reminder" EIGHT months ahead of the renewal date.

After I told him that it was "unofficial", he phoned their UK contact number, and asked if they were connected to the Registry - "no" - "so are you passing yourself off as the Registry, then?" - CLICK!

I wish all my clients were as on the ball...

Sander Vermeulen said...

As a trademark attorney, I frequently get these fake renewal reminders from clients. We have send warning letters, but it just isn't enough to stop them. We have knowlege of these very active renewal and private register companies:

- Intellectual Property Agency Ltd (Brussels)
- ECTO S.A. (Brussels): employee ms. Aime Kass signs the renewals
- European Trademark Organisation S.A.(Brussels)
- WBIP - World Bureau Intellectual Property Corp. (Aloha, USA)

There are much more, but these I have seen personally.

We should all warn our clients for this, it is the only way to put them out of business.

Chris H said...

Several of my clients have received a letter from IPA, one of whom seems to have been convinced that it was authentic as they have said to proceed - although fortunately the reply has been addressed to us rather than IPA.

In my view these letters breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The Trade Marks Registry initially had the view that there was little they could do, but after speaking with them in connection with the previous one doing the rounds (CTMFS) I think they are now convinced that Trading Standards can take action after all (in the UK at least), so I believe they are helping out by collating evidence sent in by consumers.

Hopefully such action will be publicised and will put off those who write such letters.

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