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Misleading Invoices: a case study

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What do you mean I spent all my pocket money settling a fake invoice?

What do you mean I spent all my pocket money settling a fake invoice?

A while ago we posted an article about misleading invoices that relate to intellectual property rights (patents, designs and trade marks). Here’s a link to that article – Misleading Invoices: a warning.

By way of a quick recap, you will recall that we are talking about communications, that are sometimes received by the owners of IP rights, that resemble official looking invoices for IP services. Such misleading invoices are sent directly to the IP owner and are designed such that they give the impression to the IP owner that they have to either use the service offered or pay the amount listed.

We were recently sent details of the various invoices that one IP owner has received and a quick analysis of the information we’ve seen is quite frightening.

The IP owner in question is a company with around 180 patent families and a number of trade marks. In a period of around 4 months from Christmas last year this company received 19 separate misleading invoices, of which 12 originated from one source – Patent & Trademark Office Ltd1.

The total invoiced amount was just under £25,000 and the received invoices related both to the renewal of IP rights and to entry onto unofficial registers. Removing the actual UK Intellectual Property Office patent renewal amounts from the total left around £18,500 in service charges! Now, obviously, IP representatives and renewal agencies also charge service charges for handling renewal fee payments. However, the amounts being invoiced in these invoices were fairly eye watering – around £600 per renewal (Note: those invoices that were offering the chance to be entered onto unofficial registers were even worse with the amounts topping out at around £1800!).

The company that has supplied us the above information believes that 19 invoices in a 4 month period represents a typical rate of such invoices throughout the year. Scaling the figures up therefore suggests that invoices totalling around £75,000 per year are being received by this one company alone that do not originate from their IP representative, renewals agency or a national/regional IP office.

Fortunately, this company is wise to the issue but others are not so lucky.

The problem is an ongoing one and my contact at the company has told me today that they’ve received another invoice from a new source – International Patent and Trademark Service in Poland.

Remember, if you receive an invoice you are not sure about, Keltie can advise you as to whether it is genuine or a scam.  Always check with your professional representative if you are unsure, and follow the links below for more details.

More on misleading invoices can be found at the following links:

  • EPO
  • WIPO
  • OHIM
  • CIPA – Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. This page has examples of misleading invoices.
  • ITMA – Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys

Mark Richardson     24 June 2013

1 Other invoices were received from Euro IP Register, Register of International Patents, Register of International Patents and Trademarks, World Patent and Trademark Index, Intellectual Property Agency Ltd, World Bureau for Intellectual Property and Universal Patents and Trademarks Service.

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