By Donald Zuhn --
Several patent offices, including the European Patent Office (EPO), United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and Israel Patent Office (ILPO), have recently issued warnings to applicants and practitioners regarding invitations or requests to pay fees that do not come from those patent offices and that are unrelated to the processing of applications at those patent offices. The fraudulent notices purport to offer registration or publication services that are not connected to those patent offices or to any of the official publications distributed by those offices. In its warning, the EPO notes that the firms distributing such notices use names, abbreviations, and logos that are designed to make it appear that the notice has been issued by an official source, and that frequently, the notices bear a confusing similarity to documents that are actually issued by the EPO or WIPO in order to give the impression that the firms distributing the notices are acting on the behalf of the EPO or WIPO. The EPO warning advises applicants and practitioners that (emphasis in original):
Despite the misleading official look of such invoices, the services offered by these firms are unrelated to the processing of European patent applications and PCT applications by the EPO and WIPO. There is therefore no obligation to pay any invoice issued by these firms for the processing of your patent application by the EPO and WIPO. Moreover, any payment made to these firms will have no legal effect whatsoever in proceedings under the EPC and the PCT.
The EPO warning also provides 26 examples of notices that have been issued by the following firms or organizations requesting payment of "fees":
• IP Data
The warning from UKIPO includes an example of a notice from OHIM-Organization for Harmonizing in the Intern. Market.
The warning from WIPO includes a list of 91 notices requesting payment of "fees".
(We have also collected copies of notices requesting "fees" that were sent by Comm Ctr Ind Trade, CPTD - Central Patent & Trademark Database, IP Data, Patent Trademark Register, USTMS - United States Trademark Maintenance Service, UPTS, WDTP, and WIPT.)
The EPO warning concludes by noting that "[o]nly the EPO can publish and register European patent applications and patents with legal effect, and it does so automatically," and "[s]imilarly, the International Bureau of WIPO alone is responsible for the international publication of PCT applications." The EPO advises applicants and practitioners "to read carefully the content of any invitation to make payments in relation to your patent applications and patents."
Hat tip to the Reinhold Cohn Group for alerting the patent community to the warnings issued by the EPO, WIPO, UKIPO, and ILPO.