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Warning: misleading invoices - don’t be fooled

Latest news: Intellectual Property Office (IPO) initiates legal action to protect its own Intellectual Property (IP)

On Monday 19 May 2014, we filed a claim for passing off at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court against the persons behind the companies trading as Patent and Trade Mark Office and Patent and Trade Mark Organisation.

These organisations have been issuing official looking ‘renewal’ notices to holders of UK registered patents and trade marks offering to renew the rights for fees greatly in excess of the official renewal fees.

We know that some of our customers have been misled into making excessive payments to these organisations because they thought they were paying the IPO for renewing intellectual property rights. We therefore felt it was necessary to take appropriate action given the evidence that our customers are being misled or confused and that damage is being caused to the office’s good name.

UPDATE: 18 August 2014 - IPO succeeds in passing off legal action External Link

Advertising Standards Authority’s action on Misleading Invoices

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has also been taking action in relation to companies who issue misleading invoices. This includes a landmark agreement with Trading Standards who have agreed to act as the ASA’s “legal backstop” in relation to any non-broadcast advertisers who continue to break the rules on misleading advertising.

Further information External Link about this new agreement is available on the ASA website.

The ASA has also ruled against three companies in relation to misleading invoices:

These decisions reinforce our advice to customers. If you receive an unsolicited invitation, DO NOT PAY IT until you have checked to see what services are being offered and if it is from an official source. These companies are not linked to any Government or Community institution - you are NOT obliged to pay their fees.

If you receive a misleading invoice, we'd like to hear about it and see a copy of the invoice.

It has even happened to us - see the invoices we have received PDF document(162Kb) and our response PDF document(827Kb).

What services do these invoices offer?

If in doubt, rights owners should check with their patent or trade mark attorney, solicitor, patent advisor or inventor-support organisation. Alternatively contact us on 0300 300 2000.

You can also visit the websites of the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) External Link and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) External Link in relation to sources of initial legal advice in relation to any contractual aspect of the unsolicited invitation and also in relation to general advice on patents, designs and trade marks. Trading Standards offices also offer advice on dealing with unsolicited mail. Visit their website External Link to find your local office. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) also provide further information on unsolicited invitations External Link.

The following are the only offices that provide legal protection for trade marks, patents and designs in the UK:

  • The Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
  • The European Patent Office (EPO)
  • The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM)
  • The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)