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Intellectual Property Insights: Misleading Invoices for Trademark Users

December 2023

Cyber-attacks targeting intellectual property (IP) applicants and owners are increasing in frequency and sophistication, following a rather uncomplicated scenario in which applicants and owners of trademarks and/or designs receive misleading invoices or other types of deceptive payment requests for services related to IP rights procedures. The success of these tactics relies largely on recipients not carefully reviewing or overlooking the payment requests.

Andreea Moldovan, Intellectual Property Specialist with SIMION & BACIU’s award-winning practice, authored an article detailing on the de factor situation and specific considerations to be evaluated in this context.

According to the analysis of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), a single actor may generate a yearly net turnover of up to EUR 16 million. These schemes may target about 8,000 victims who are users of IP systems.

Against this background, users should take concrete steps to expeditiously identify misleading invoices and payment requests and promptly report any attempted fraud.

IPR applicants and owners should be aware when it comes to the registration or renewal of their IP rights, that, as a principle, IP Offices, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), never mail invoices or requests for payment.

To note that often the deceiving documents are designed to look legitimate and act like they are coming from an official source, impersonating IP Offices, such as WIPO or EUIPO or pretend to be a legitimate business offering intellectual property services.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing number of such dishonest practices and the complaints received and published by some IP offices increase annually, making it even more important for applicants and owners to recognize misleading communications received during the registration process or during the renewal period. Moreover, should these (misleading) payment documents be received from non-affiliated entities for the payment of fees to the relevant authorities, eighter by e-mail or postal mail, vigilance should be intensified.

Even though the documents received might look genuine, users can recognize misleading invoices or similar payment requests from fraudulent actors who pose as IP offices as these communications might contain:

  • suspicious links
  • badly written message contents
  • misspells of genuine IP offices names or mimicking official logos (i.e. EIPO – European Intellectual Property Office, EIPA – European Intellectual Property Agency, EUIPA – European Intellectual Property Agency or IPTO – Intellectual Property Trademark Organization instead of EUIPO – European Union Intellectual Property Office, as shown in the example below)
  • language that creates a sense of urgency and sentences marked in red which could create panic, as shown in the examples below, as documents seem to refer to an important and urgent pending payment:

Searchable lists of companies that users have complained of sending misleading invoices are published on the official websites of IP offices. The ones published by EUIPO and WIPO can be browsed at:

In case the e-mail or the documents received seem suspicious, trademark users should firmly consider reporting the communication to their IP representatives who can advise on the matter, act or consult the official webpages and accounts of the relevant IP office, which usually display information regarding their payment methods, bank accounts ongoing fraud schemes and examples of misleading invoices reported by users in the past, to avoid the scammers.

In conclusion, IP rights applicants and owners should verify the source of the invoice and remember that authorities such as EUIPO and WIPO DO NOT ISSUE INVOICES for the fees required. Users are strongly advised to proceed with the utmost caution before sending any money and to be alert when handling messages pertaining to their IP rights, as money recovery following these fraudulent operations is a difficult operation and success is not always guaranteed.

To raise awareness on intellectual property aspects and to help companies understand the relevant concepts, risks and benefit connected to such, SIMION & BACIU constantly prepares to-the-point overviews on sensitive topics.

SIMION & BACIU is a 3-time winner of the much-coveted Romanian Law Firm of the Year award by Managing IP in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Also, the firm is the winner of the prestigious Trademark Firm of the Year for Romania distinction at the 2022 Global IP Awards Gala presented by IAM 100 and World Trademark Review (WTR) 1000. To learn more about out Intellectual Property practice please click HERE.

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