Scammers target many different industries and Intellectual Property is no exception. This article outlines some of the common scams, what to be aware of and how to avoid becoming a victim.
When you apply for IP rights like patents, trademarks and designs, your details necessarily become publicly available. Scammers use this information to make targeted attempts at extracting money from you.
If you are a client of ours, the best way to avoid scams is to NEVER pay any invoice that doesn’t come from us. You will never be required to pay any invoice or respond to any correspondence that doesn’t come from us. If in doubt, please send the correspondence to us and we will let you know if it’s a scam.
Also, please make sure you only ever make payments to the NZ bank details we provide you. We will not ask you to make payments to any other bank account. Be wary if you receive any email or invoice with new bank details in them.
The Official Notification Scam
One of the most common IP related scams involves the scammer sending an official looking notification and invoice to you. Examples are shown below.
These scam documents can be deceiving as they look official and will mention your real intellectual property rights such as Trademarks or Patents. Your name, address and IP right number becomes publicly available information when your application is published. You are therefore likely to start receiving various scam letters, emails and invoices soon after publication.
There are many more examples of scam invoices and letters you can look at on the following sites:
- European Intellectual Property Office – When you file a European Design or Trademark you are likely to receive some of these scam letters.
- European Patent Office (EPO) When you file a European patent you are likely to receive some of these scam letters.
- World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) When you file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application you are likely to receive some of these scam letters.
The Trademark Extortion Scam
After filing a trademark application you may receive emails or correspondence from scammers who have applied for the same trademark in another country. There can be legitimate circumstances when this can occur but more frequently it involves trademark ‘squatters’ who file a trademark application soon after your application in anticipation that you will not file the trademark in the other country by the six-month deadline, but want to use the trademark in the future.
If you do not file overseas applications before the deadline, the scammer can threaten litigation for trademark infringement in the future when you try to use that trademark in that country. Often businesses end up paying the ‘squatter’ or applying to have their trademark cancelled for non-use.
Phishing and Email scams
Standard email phishing attacks also occur for IP rights holders.
A scammer may email you from what appears to be a legitimate source using email masking, e.g. the email appears to come from us but if you check the full email address you will see the true email which may be something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
If a scammer can gain access to your email they can make more targeted attempts to defraud you by referring to real invoices or emails. Please closely double-check the email address before paying any invoices from us and if you have ANY uncertainty, call us. If you become aware of a breach, please change your passwords immediately and check to see if your account has sent or received any other illegitimate emails.
Please also beware of any correspondence you receive asking you to make an invoice payment to a differnet bank account. Check with us if you receive correspondence like that.
CERT NZ has some more general information on scams and fraud that you can read here.