Beware of scams related to trademarks in France and Europe

Published onJune 2013

In France and in other European countries, for several years now, commercial companies directly contact the owners of industrial property rights to offer unnecessary trademark management services.

With the increasing digitization and the development of online accessibility of national, regional and international registers of industrial property rights, the phenomenon has amplified. Cybercriminals have indeed easy access to personal information about applicants and registered owners of trademarks, such as their names or company names, their addresses, and even sometimes their email addresses, telephone or fax numbers.

For example, there are increasing offers for publication services of trademark applications or registrations in unknown or non-existent bulletins or journals.

Only industrial property offices are entitled to publish information about trademarks in their own official bulletins or registers. They are the INPI in France, the OHIM for Community trademarks and WIPO for International trademarks. And their official publications are the only ones authentic and with a legal value. Moreover, for the aforementioned offices, the costs related to publication of trademarks information are included in the costs related to trademark applications or registrations. They are set by official regulations and they are publicly available on the websites of the offices concerned.

Any other publications, when they do exist, would be unnecessary and totally useless form a strictly legal point of view.

There are also commercial companies offering to provide assistance with the renewal of French or Community trademarks.

There again, it must be known that there are few industrial property offices that warn trademark owners of the next renewal date of their title. For example, French registered trademarks are protected for a ten-year period but the INPI does not notify their owners of when the next renewal is due (it appears that such a service may be created in the future).

As a consequence, commercial proposals to renew trademarks must be treated as what they are. They are neither official nor mandatory. Sometimes they are not even real.

The best case scenario would be that the trademark is actually renewed even if probably for an unreasonable or prohibitive amount. But in the worst case scenario, the trademark would never be renewed and the money would credit a bank account which would simply disappear in the next following months together with its holder.

The best thing to do remains to get well informed before paying anything, and at least to compare prices, rates and of course the amount of official fees which are available on the websites of the industrial property offices concerned.

In conclusion, every letter or commercial proposition that does not come from the industrial property offices or from the registered trademark attorneys or agents should be considered suspect. In doubt, they should be contacted.

© INSCRIPTA