Can you tell a fake trademark invoice from a real?
The issue with fake trademark invoices is increasing and the people behind them are creative. Some are designed to look like the sender is an actual trademark office like EUIPO or WIPO, others are from companies requesting payment for pure scam services like publication, registration and renewal of your trademark. With names such as Word Trademark Register, WOTRA (World Organization for Trademarks) and ETR (European Trademark Register), they are not easy to spot.
In a recent major case in Sweden, 19 people were found guilty of involvement in a massive fraud scheme. The group sent out fake invoices that looked like they were from OHIM (EUIPO) to several hundred recipients in different countries. The defendants claimed that there were never any fake invoices, only different offers to voluntarily accept and pay for. However, Svea Court of Appeal ruled that those who did pay were tricked and that any other explanations for the payments are so unlikely they should not be considered.
The primary defendant was convicted of 335 cases of gross fraud and 1000 cases of preparation of the same. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison and shall pay SEK 1.4 million in damages to the government, money that he is deemed to have gained through the fraud scheme.
The prosecutor said that the ruling may be significant in addressing the widespread issue with fake invoices where companies and individuals are tricked into paying for services they did not order or that does not even exist.
So how can you protect yourself from fake invoices?
- Read the fine print. If it says that no purchase has been made and/or that payment is voluntary, or other indications that you do not have a business relationship with the invoice provider – do not pay.
- Both EUIPO and WIPO have searchable lists with samples of misleading invoices sent to trademark owners. If it is listed there – do not pay.
- We at Otmore will never send invoices in any other name than our own. If you are still unsure about the origin, contact us for further assistance.