Stay alert: scam invoices for trademark services are becoming more and more real

15 Apr '22

Author(s): Willem Leppink, Michelle Roosma,

Misleading invoices, a by now all too familiar concept which we still warn our clients about on a daily basis and also receive many questions about. And not only because more and more rogue companies are sending misleading invoices, but perhaps even more so because these fake invoices are becoming more and more real. Criminals take advantage of the publicity of e.g. trademark registers and send offers that look like invoices from official trademark authorities to register trademarks via vague websites or to renew trademarks at high cost. Despite all the warnings, companies large and small are victim of these scamming activities.

Just like real

Where it used to be a rather 'amateurish' email with an obviously incorrect address and/or bank account number, we are now seeing misleading invoices passing by where even a professional looking website is linked to the invoice. For example, a few weeks ago one of our clients received an invoice from Trademarks Worldwide, according to the credible website a firm based in the UK specialized in intellectual property. Fortunately, this invoice was forwarded to us because the client was still somewhat suspicious.

In addition, fraudsters are getting bolder and know how to send the right people the right e-mail: an invoice for trademark extension to the EU exactly at the moment that the Benelux trademark is registered, or a one-time ‘discounted’ offer for the renewal of a trademark registration that will indeed expire in a few months. This often adds to the doubt, because for clients it is often a logical message at a logical time!

Fight against the fraudsters

Experts estimate a conversion rate of 2%. Two percent of all misleading invoices are being paid! With invoice values of often EUR 1,000 to 2,000 each, this leads to enormous damage to business. And the very people who pay are often unaware that they have been scammed.

We are not the only ones warning our clients about misleading invoices and urging them to forward any received invoice (with envelope) to us if they have even the slightest doubt. The European trademark owner organization MARQUES participates in the Anti-Scam Network led by the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in which Europol and the national trademark authorities also participate, to make it as difficult as possible for fraudsters. Ploum partner Willem Leppink is a member of the executive board of MARQUES and is part of the anti-scam team that was specially set up for this purpose. Among other things, the network maintains a database with examples of misleading invoices. This list is continuously updated and can be consulted via the EUIPO website: Misleading invoices (europa.eu).

Ploum helps

  • Trademark registrations managed by Ploum and yet received an invoice from someone else for trademarks managed by us? Do not pay the invoice!
  • Feel free to send us the invoices, preferably with an envelope. We will make sure they get to the authorities;
  • Look critically at your own internal payment process. Does someone always give approval who is familiar with the content of the services provided?
  • If in doubt - call us. We are happy to help.

Contact

Expertises:  Intellectual property rights,European Law,Trademark and design registration,Marketing and advertising, Technology, media and telecom,Food, E-commerce,

Expertises:  Intellectual property rights,Trademark and design registration,

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