For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Another day, another bunch of scams

This weblog, together with its cousin the MARQUES Class 46 weblog, has been campaigning in recent weeks for something to be done in order to combat the unfair and deceptive business practices which prey upon intellectual property owners and applicants by sending them purportedly official communications requiring them to pay sums of money or by inviting them to commit themselves to valueless directory entries.

The thing which has most shocked this Kat -- who is not easily shocked -- is the level of indifference and inertia which has greeted these efforts.  He has received emails from IP experts, assuring him that "it's not clear how exactly they can be stopped" [which of course is a reason for doing nothing],  this "these practices are not new" [What's that got to with it? There's no novelty requirement for a scam, is there?], that they have "known about them for years" [but have they found a way of warning their clients?] and even that it was counterproductive to write about these things since it would give people ideas as to how to make an easy buck.

Not everyone is so complacent.  One correspondent, who sadly has to remain anonymous even though he works for an organisation which itself works to draw the attention of potential victims to the existence of their predators, writes:

"I noted your call for research on the impact of such misleading invitations. And while the attached judgment in the Florida case [State of Florida v Federated Institute for Patent and Trademark Registry (FIPTR), see also petition for certiorari here] does not count as true research, it is my contention that it gives a snapshot of the kind of impact that such invitations can have and are having. For example, you can see the number of payments received in the period in which FIPTR operated and the amount ordered by the court to be reimbursed to those who had paid. If you extrapolate the Florida result to the other jurisdictions in which such scams are operating over the number of years they have done so, you can get a sense of the blight they are on the IP system".
The scammer in this case was ordered to reimburse his victims to the tune of US$2,587,771.29; he was also ordered to pay a civil fine of $2,116,500 in respect of the 1,411 victims duped by his activities. The acts committed by him fell firmly under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, chapter 501, part II, and the state Attorney General had a clear basis on which to proceed.

Another correspondent, writing from London, says:
"...   We have still been receiving three or four scam invoices a week - our team assistant has been putting them straight in the rubbish bin now!

Good luck with your battle. I was incredibly frustrated trying to report the scam invoices - the Government Fraud group did not want to know because we had not been a victim (because we had not actually paid any of the invoices). I told them that was a bit of a silly approach to take as surely they should be just as interested in the scams. But 'the computer said no'."
The Kat wishes he could be surprised by this attitude. The same correspondent sent him this demand from W.O.I.P. (a sort of WIPO for dyslexics), which uses a pretty close version of WIPO's new and -- it seems -- hopelessly unprotectable logo. It gives an address for payment by cheque which is 2-4 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3NT [this blog probably has dozens of readers within a 500 metre radius] and payment by money transfer may be made to an account held with the Royal Bank of Scotland International Ltd (motto "Here for you"), which presumably satisfies itself as to the bona fides of its business account holders.

Well, criminal and civil enforcers, legislators, government ministers, backbenchers, policy-makers, diplomats, people who have influence and can pass legislation, people who can enforce it -- here's a challenge to you.  Do you have the will, the wit and the wisdom to stop these scammers?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bizarrely enough, there are a few cases for "restitutio in integrum" which passed through the Danish patent office recently, in which the patent proprietor received a (completely valid) request for annuity payment from the DK PTO, and threw it in the bin, thinking it was a scam...

Anonymous said...

I recall having rung the French customs about 10 years ago on such scams coming from Austria and the former Czechoslovakian state, and being told then that although they were already aware of the problem, the corresponding partner states were being rather uncooperative about shutting them down.

Anonymous said...

Not a long-term solution but at least annoying enough to the scammers: writing to the bank and stating what this account is used for. Usually the banks close these accounts as soon as they are made aware of what kinds of companies their clients are (at least this worked with the banks in Germany in similar scam cases)

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