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Oh those trademark scammers

Trademark scammers seek to exploit intellectual property owners by sending correspondence that looks authentic but is very deceiving.

trademark scammersMore and more Intellectual Property owners are receiving solicitations from those who seek to exploit their Intellectual Property.

These solicitations come in the form of correspondence or invoices that may contain images of patents or trademarks, contact information, registration numbers and other information all of which appear very authentic, but are deceiving. The information identified in these solicitations is easily derived from the publicly accessible Canadian Intellectual Property Office (the “CIPO“) online databases and other intellectual property databases around the world. These solicitations, allegedly from government organizations, request the payment of bogus fees for publication of a trademark application, or it might offer legal services, request a hefty fee to renew a trademark registration, assist with the payment of maintenance fees for patents, offer monitoring services or even provide deceptive and misleading marketing practices relating to domain names.

All correspondence from the CIPO is either sent directly to the trademark owner, or through its Trademark Agent and/or representative for service. The CIPO is the only authority authorized to protect a person’s Intellectual Property in Canada. It is this governmental agency that is responsible for the administration of Intellectual Property rights and their renewals.

Generally, these solicitations are scams and should be ignored. To avoid falling for these fake solicitations, we provide some guidance:

  • All correspondence from CIPO via email will have a URL address ending in “,” and if the correspondence is sent by mail, the letter will identify 50 Victoria Street, Gatineau, QC, K1A 0C9 as the CIPO’s mailing address.
  • Make sure you know what the CIPO fees are for prosecuting and maintaining your Intellectual Property rights in Canada. The fees identified in a solicitation is typically much higher than the fees through the CIPO. The CIPO has a complete list of fees for each service available on its website.
  • Know when your Intellectual Property rights should be renewed. Each right has a very specific time to be renewed. For example, a registered trademark is renewed every 15 years, where patents maintenance fees must be paid every year.
  • There are solicitations that contain cautionary language such as “patent cancellation notice” or “important notification regarding your federal trademark.” This language would not be found on correspondence from the CIPO.
  • Some of these solicitations include the reference to “Canada” or “Canadian” in the company name or in the letterhead appearing to be official.
  • They can also offer to add you to a directory which appears to be official, or offer services similar to those already provided by the CIPO.

It is important to read the fine print to a solicitation to determine whether or not it comes from the CIPO. If you are unsure, contact your Fasken Martineau Trademark Agent.

Never hesitate to enquire as to whether a solicitation received by email or mail regarding your Intellectual Property is legitimate.

By Janine MacNeil, Fasken Martineau

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