Beware: Are crafty trade mark scammers taking your money?


Beware: Are crafty trade mark scammers taking your money?

17 February 2023

Have you received an invoice relating to your trade mark application or registration from an unknown source? DO NOT PAY IT!  In the past 12 months, we have seen an increase in these scams targeting our clients and contacts, with occurrences continuing to rise.

How do the scammers get my details?

When details of trade mark applications are published on the Australian Trade Marks Register, the Applicant’s name and address details are also publicly available. This provides the perfect opportunity for scammers to contact you directly seeking payment for actions that seem legitimate, such as renewal of the registration.

How do I know if the request is legitimate?

Unless the request for payment is coming from your trusted agent listed as the address for service on the Australian Trade Marks Register (Register), such as Seneworth Legal Partners, or, in the case of those who are self- represented, from IP Australia directly, DO NOT PAY IT!

Importantly, IP Australia will issue official notices informing trade mark owners that renewal is due and instructions as to how to pay the renewal fees via the online eServices portal. IP Australia will not issue an invoice asking you to make payment by way of BPAY, a credit card, or other bank account.

Scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated in how requests for payment are being presented, with the majority of invoices and company names looking legitimate. These are often accompanied by scare tactic claims that owners will lose their trade mark rights if payment is not received, or even stating that your registration has lapsed and you need to pay immediately to revive it.

It is easy for owners who are not overly familiar with the trade mark process (and rely on their address for service for guidance) to fall into the trap and make a payment, and many do.

I’ve paid a scammer. Can I get my money back?

Unfortunately, any money paid to scammers is not generally recoverable. Whilst you can report the scam to IP Australia, they are not accountable for any fraudulent or unsolicited contact as trade mark owner details are publicly available on the Register.

Hints to identify if it’s a scam

If you receive an invoice requesting payment relating to your Australian trade mark application/registration ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have an agent listed as the address for service? Any request for payment should come via your agent so reach out and ask for them to confirm it is a scam.
  • Are you self-represented on the Register? Any legitimate notification will come directly from IP Australia in letter form and not an invoice. Don’t be shy in being cautious and call IP Australia to double check the legitimacy of the notice.
  • Is the notification an invoice (rather than an official notice/letter) and/or from an overseas organisation?
  • Are there spelling errors contained within the notification/invoice?
  • Does your trade mark registration fall due for renewal within the next 12 months?

Trade mark owners should receive all official correspondence, including any renewal fees that may be due, via the address for service listed on the Register. For those self-represented, all official correspondence will be sent directly from IP Australia and any requests for payment will not be in the form of an invoice.

Take home message

Trade marks is an area which is increasingly being targeted by scammers .  If you receive any invoice seeking payment in relation to a trade mark, DO NOT PAY IT.

If you receive an official notification reminding you that a payment is due which is not from your listed address for service, or clearly direct from IP Australia if you are self-represented, then conduct some further investigations to ensure it is legitimate. Need to bounce off someone to check legitimacy? We’d love to help.

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