Trademark and patent registrations are crucial for businesses and individuals to protect their brand and innovations. Smarter spams, therefore, target the growing popularity of registering patents and trademarks, apart from domain names, and are designed to trick patent and trademark right holders into paying money or sharing confidential information.
The digital age has brought many benefits to the business world, including greater access to information and communication, and increased opportunities for innovation. However, it has also created a new type of threat that businesses must be aware of: Unsolicited emails, commonly known as “spams”.
On a daily basis, we receive a number of unsolicited emails that offer too-good-to-be-true deals. The traditional tactics used to scam people, such as asking for money or a down payment under the pretense of a job application, donation or grant, or transferring money abroad from someone's inheritance or funds obtained under difficult conditions in their country, are no longer much effective.
Spams can take many forms, but recently more targeted and sophisticated spams have emerged to deceive unsuspecting victims.
Here are a few examples of spam targeting patent and trademark registrations:
First to register scams, mostly addressing China and India, claim that another company is trying to register your trademark or domain name, and offer to register it on your behalf for a fee. However, a simple research can reveal that the reported company does not exist.
Renewal scams informing the recipient that their brand or domain name is about to expire, typically in the form of an official notice , and urging the recipient to take immediate action by clicking a link or providing sensitive information such as login credentials.
Infringement scams claim that someone is has registered a trademark similar to your brand name or infringing your trademark rights, and that you need to take legal action immediately to protect your trademark
Notice of opposition scams claim that someone has filed an opposition to the recipient's patent or trademark application, and that they must respond within a specified time.
IP monitoring scams claim that the recipient must pay a fee to monitor their intellectual property right, such as patent and trademark, and that they will receive notifications if anyone tries to register a similar trademark.
Patent commercialization and promotion scams, some of which can be very innovative and may even seem to be legitimate, involve requesting that the recipient pay a fee in order to promote globally and commercialize their patent/ application to potential licensees. They may even have a real website. Inventors and companies seeking funds or recognition desperately may be inclined to act quickly in response to this type of scam. However, even in cases where the sender has somehow good intentions, the recipient’s response may only result in the publication of the patent or invention details on a website providing no real value that is of little or no interest to the actual interested parties, rather than being an outright on-line robbery.
As a common point, these types of scams typically involve a link to a fake website that resembles a patent and trademark office, government agency, law firm, or IP monitoring service, where the recipient is asked to enter confidential information and/or pay a fee to initiate the legal procedures required to complete the targeted task. The recipient may also be asked to enter confidential information such as credit card details.
Clever right holders may even fall victim to these tactics, as they may receive a fax with registration information for their patent or trademark, which appears to be official notices from a patent office. Some scams via e-mail, fax or even mail may appear to come from well-known official organizations, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization. However, these are simply attempts to trick you into paying for fake services or handing over your personal information to cybercriminals.
It's important to stay vigilant, as these spam tactics are continually evolving. To protect yourself from these types of scams on-line, there are a few steps you can take:
Verify the sender: Always verify the sender's email address to make sure it is legitimate before taking any action. Legal entities will not generally send emails from a free email account.
Don’t click on links: If you receive such an email asking you to take an immediate action for a specified IP service, don’t click on the links provided.
Do your research: Before paying any fees or providing personal information, research the company or organization that the email claims to be from. Check their website and look for reviews or warnings from other users.
Contact to verify: If you're unsure about the validity of an email, don't hesitate to contact the company or organization directly to verify the offer.
Consult with your patent and trademark attorney before giving anyone your money or confidential information to be sold to third parties.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that while some legal entities may also use similar tactics and approaches to approach new clients, this is generally considered to be against the rules of professional conduct and ethics.
Overall, with the increasing number of scams and frauds in the digital world, the IP right holders need to be more cautious and businesses should always check the legitimacy of emails before entering any confidential information, and should never pay any fees without verifying the authenticity of the request. If you receive an email that seems suspicious or too good to be true, it is best to ignore it and not take any action. If you have any doubts or concerns, it is always advisable to consult a professional or a legal expert.