Beware of fraudulent invoices regarding your patent application or your trademark registration

INPI Portugal
Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial

In the last years, we have noticed in Europe an increase in the number of fraudulent invoices being sent to users relating to trademarks or patents applications. If you receive an invoice that is unexpected or from an unfamiliar entity, please contact your Industrial Property (IP) Office or attorney before paying the invoice.

While many of the fraudulent invoices are sent via regular mail, some are sent by email. In Brazil, for instance, users are also receiving phone calls from people pretending that they belong to the legal department of the IP Office and that the applicant is at risk of losing his trademark. Typically, the invoices seek payment for various services related to applications: registration fees, filing fees or monitoring fees.

Such invoices —which are intentionally designed to look like real invoices from an official source— have nothing to do with the processing of your patent application or trademark registration, and the services they purport to provide have no value beyond the services already provided by your national, regional office or an international organization, such as WIPO, EPO or EUIPO.

National Patent and Trademark offices, as well as relevant international organisations and user associations, are working to inform users about this trend and to help them avoid falling for such scams. For example, warnings have been posted on several websites that include names of known perpetrating “companies” and examples of misleading letters. The Trademark International Index and Trademark Info Corp. became very popular in Mexico a few years ago.

As regards criminal proceedings, the EUIPO closely cooperated with the Swedish public prosecutor’s office who brought to Court an extensive scam scheme principally targeting EUTM owners. The Court passed four custodial sentences ranging between two months and one year for four of the defendants for attempted aggravated fraud.

The more this practice spreads over the Latin American countries, (in Brazil has some significance), the more important it is for applicants of international trademarks or patents from these countries to be aware of this situation.

If you are a PCT or an International Trademark applicant and you receive one of these invoices, first check WIPO’S warning page and see if it matches any of the examples. If not listed there, send an e-mail to WIPO with a copy so it can be added to the collection.

If you registered by yourself, you are also recommended to contact the National Intellectual Property Office involved to be sure that there is no scam and make a complaint, if afirmative. Most of them provide assistance on this issue (i.e. Brazil), but if you want to know more about what to do in case you receive one of those invoices, do not hesitate to contact our free of charge, confidential, fast Helpline. Our experts will be happy to support you.

And most importantly: Do not pay!

Madrid System governed only by the Madrid Protocol

Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial

The Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks — the Madrid Protocol — is one of two treaties comprising the Madrid System for international registration of trademarks.

The protocol is a filing treaty and it provides a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure protection for marks in multiple countries through the filing of one application with a single office, in one language, with one set of fees, in one currency.

The Madrid Protocol also simplifies the management of the mark, since a simple, single procedural step serves to record subsequent changes in ownership or in the name or address of the holder with World Intellectual Property Organization’s International Bureau.

With the recent access of Algeria to the Madrid Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the filing and management of international registrations will be simplified. Signatory to the Madrid Agreement since 1972, the country was the last of the 95 members of the Madrid System which was not party of the Protocol.

This represents a milestone for the Madrid System. From now on all the international registrations of marks will be exclusively governed by the Madrid Protocol.

As explained by WIPO, “An international registration produces the same effects as an application for registration of the mark made in each of the countries designated by the applicant. If protection is not refused by the trademark Office of a designated country within a specified period (12 or 18 months), the protection of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that Office. The Madrid system simplifies greatly also the subsequent management of the mark, since it is possible to record subsequent changes (such as a change in ownership or a change in the name or address of the holder) or to renew the registration through a simple single procedural step with the International Bureau of WIPO. Further countries may be designated subsequently.”