This is one of the few scams that operate in the IP world.
If your trade mark application has been accepted, or your patent application has reached the ripe old age of 18 months, then it will be published by the relevant IP office. This is generally quite useful – third parties get to see your IP right and are put on notice. Some enforcement rights may also start to have effect, depending on the jurisdiction and the type of publication. However, there is one distinct downside.
Scammers get to see your IP right, your name, and your address. And they use it.
Generally, they send a letter telling you about their wonderful new Register of All The Really Good IP Rights in the World (or something along those lines). This Register will, apparently, contain an exhaustive list of all the IP rights that third parties need to know about, and inclusion in it will mean that they will voluntarily steer clear of your invention/trade mark/whatever. And all in return for the very reasonable publication fee that they would be grateful if you could send by return.
Sometimes, the letter is constructed to look like an invoice, with a remittance advice at the bottom that is oh-so-convenient for you to pass to your accounts department to sort out. The worst ones are dressed up to look like they came from the IP Office at which you filed the application, and are worded to appear to be essential payments in order to maintain the validity of the IP right.
These are scams. Ignore them. Or, better, contact your local Trading Standards organisation (or its equivalent in your country) and ask them to do something about it.
If you’re not convinced that these things are scams, then let me point two salient facts out.
- First, the scams that look like official requests for payment. All IP Offices will respect your decision to nominate an agent or attorney to represent you. They will always send official communications via that agent or attorney. Therefore, if it has come to you direct, it is not official.
- Second, there is the question of the scams that admit they are an independent and unofficial Register. Let me just say that in nearly 20 years in this profession, I have seen many, many letters addressed to my clients offering this service. I have never once been offered a copy of the final Register. Not once.
If you’re still unsure, send a copy of the letter over to your agent or attorney. He or she should be very happy to look at it and confirm whether it is a scam or not. I always am, so if yours isn’t, contact me instead and ask about moving your work to someone who attends to their client’s needs…