Warning: trademark renewal from PTMO – Patent & Trademark Organisation

A number of trademark owners in Australia, particularly those in the high profile travel and tourism sector, have recently received an official looking letter from PTMO (Patent & Trademark Organisation) advising that their trademark is expiring and the steps that need to be taken to renew it.

Trademarks, or brands, are used to uniquely identify your goods and services from those supplied by others. IP Australia administers intellectual property relating to trademarks and patents in Australia.  The process of registering or renewing a trademark is either done directly with IP Australia or through an intermediary that you can pay extra to do the work for you, which is typically a legal firm.

The letters that are currently being sent out by PTMO are unsolicited requests to renew your trademark at a significant extra cost.  IP Australia charges $400 for a single class trademark renewal, while PTMO charge more than 3 times that amount – $1,395.

Upon receiving one of these trademark renewal notices, many people may assume this is the official process that must be undertaken to renew their trademark.  Trademark renewals occur every 10 years, so it is an extremely infrequent process.  After 10 years, recipients of those renewals from PTMO may have little recollection of the process they undertook 10 years ago.

Below is a copy of an invoice from PTMO – Patent & Trademark Organisation, with the personal details of the business that sent it to us blanked out to protect their privacy.

PTMO - Patent & Trademark Organisation

There are a number of distinguishing features of this renewal notice.

  1. The letter is sent from an address in Canberra, the capital of Australia, which some people may interpret as thus originating from a federal government organisation.
  2. The letter is written in American English, rather than Australian English, thus some words are not spelt correctly. This is not something you would expect from an Australian government organisation.
  3. A strong warning that “if not renewed, your trademark will expire“, thus implying a sense of urgency in dealing with this renewal letter.
  4. An easy way of commencing the renewal process – simply date and sign the letter, and return it in the pre-paid envelope enclosed.

In order make the expensive renewal process through this third party legal, there is small print buried on the letter which says:

  1. PTMO Limited is not associated with the official IP Australian office.
  2. PTMO Limited is an independent renewal processing company.
  3. This is is an optional offer.
  4. This is not an invoice or bill.
  5. You can also contact your legal representative to perform the renewal for you.

The trademark renewal notice has their phone number listed as (02) 6140 3414 and their address listed as:

Patent and Trademark Organisation
2 Endeavour House
Captain Cook Crescent
Griffith ACT 2603

On the return pre-paid envelope is this address:

PTMO Ltd
Renewals Department
Reply Paid 83277
Griffith ACT 2603

In the small print on the back of the renewal notice, their address is listed as:

PTMO Ltd
5 Secretary's Lane
PO Box 931
Gibraltar GX11 1AA
Gibraltar

IP Australia is aware of many types of unsolicited renewal offers sent to trademark owners.  See their dedicated page on unsolicited invoices.

If you have inadvertently signed up to allow PTMO to renew your trademark, thinking you were dealing with IP Australia, you are encouraged report it via the ACCC’s ScamWatch page.

Update for May 2017

If you don’t authorise PTMO (Patent & Trademark Organisation) to renew your trademark, you may receive a follow-up a letter a few months later from them with “reminder” in big letters at the top, and a further warning that “your trademark is about to expire”.  Refer to the example below:

Patent & Trademark Organisation Pty Ltd

Note that PTMO, who wants to be trusted with the very important task of renewing a trademark at a premium cost, are happy to send a letter out which features a spelling mistake – refer to the heading on the first column of the second table.

The urgency of this trademark expiry is curious, given that the reminder is sent out a year and a half before the actual expiry date.  In reality, they want you to renew your registration with them before IP Australia sends out an official renewal notice.

Anyone receiving this reminder notice will be surprised to see that the original renewal fee of $1,395 for one class has been reduced to $1,285.  However, the fee for additional classes has risen from $485 to $550 each.  Keep in mind that renewing your trademark online directly with IP Australia will cost just $400 for one class, which is $885 cheaper than letting PTMO do it for you.

Strangely, the renewal reminder from PTMO is sent from a completely different address than the original renewal.  The original trademark renewal offer was sent from Canberra, but this reminder letter comes from a Sydney address, with a Melbourne address listed on the reply-paid envelope which is really odd.  To further add to this tangled web, the Canberra phone number on the original renewal letter has been replaced by a Brisbane number of (07) 3067 8915 plus a Melbourne FAX number of (03) 9923 6363.  How confusing is that!

Patent and Trademark Organisation Pty Ltd
Level 17
9 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000

On the return pre-paid envelope is this address:

Trademark Service
Reply Paid 88875
Melbourne VIC 3000

This delivery address is also listed on the return pre-paid envelope:

585 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

So with the pricing on the reminder notice all over the place compared to the original letter from PTMO, and a confusing mix of Sydney and Melbourne addresses replacing the Canberra address, plus a contact phone number that has changed from Canberra to Brisbane, all this really doesn’t inspire any confidence in this organisation or its stability.

Our advice – treat any correspondence from Patent & Trademark Organisation Pty Ltd with caution and seek legal advice if you need help.  For any general questions about trademarks in Australia, IP Australia (see www.ipaustralia.gov.au) should be your first port of call, as PTMO is not Australia’s official intellectual property agency.

12 thoughts on “Warning: trademark renewal from PTMO – Patent & Trademark Organisation”

    1. If you paid by credit card, one option would be to dispute the transaction with your bank. However, we assume that to reach the payment stage, you would have signed a document authorising PTMO to renew your trademark, thus committing yourself to pay them for that service, which we assume has been delivered.

      This scam is very elaborate and tricky because PTMO are doing what they say they will do, and that is renew your trademark. However, they do it in such a way that they trick you into believing you received a renewal notice directly from Australia’s official intellectual property organisation. Instead, they act as a middle man for trademark renewals, charging astronomically high fees for doing something you could easily do yourself online – i.e. filling out a short form and paying a bill.

      If you have any success in recovering your payment, we would love you to post a follow-up comment here to help others to possibly get their money back.

  1. I received 3 letters from the same company for 3 ‘Pending Trademark cancellations’ my renewals are due in a little over 2 years, I thought the amount seemed rather high (I know prices go up But!) so I googled the phone number on the letters and found your site.
    My Letters look a little different, but same concept same amount they are trying to scam me $1285
    I can’t understand why they can get away with even attempting to trick people, why are they still operating.
    Iam furious and I will take it further.
    PS they didn’t fool me, but they have really peeved me off.

    1. There are many unscrupulous organisations that target people and businesses whose trademarks are approaching their renewal date. They cleverly send the renewal way before the official one from IP Australia arrives, so as to get in first.

      While it is not illegal for a business to offer to handle the process of renewing your trademark for you, the way businesses like PTMO operate is primarily on deception. They prey on time-poor individuals or businesses who may simply pay the renewal to get it out of the way. This is particularly an issue with trademarks as they last 10 years, so who can remember what the previous fee was or what is involved to renew it?

      They also use rather generic but official sounding organisation names, like “Patent & Trademark Organisation” to convince people that they must be the official registrar of trademarks.

      To cover themselves, buried deep within the many paragraphs of small print, they do mention they are not IP Australia and they are just offering to renew and expiring trademark on your behalf. But some people simply won’t read that far. After all, who reads every word on a bill or a document like this? And those are the people who end up being fleeced, paying exorbitant sums of money to PTMO to do something they could do themselves.

      We are really pleased you haven’t donated your hard-earned money to organisations like PTMO. Spread the word, and if people don’t fall for these sorts of scams, then PTMO will simply go out of business.

  2. I received reminder letter straight away and just searched on google because I’m curious of everything 🙂 and I found your post!
    Thank you so much for posting this sweet information. I think you will make people save money.

    1. Hi Jenny, we are really happy to hear that you used Google to help you to find out the “truth” behind these trademark renewal letters. Unfortunately many people are just blindly paying them without realising they are not the official renewal notices. By paying them, a third party does the renewal instead (which only takes a few minutes) for a very hefty cost. Spread the word – that’s the only way these people can be driven out of business.

  3. I received mine from:

    Patent & Trademark Agency ($1450)
    Level 32
    1 Market St
    Sydney NSW 2000
    Australia
    ABN:26612257833; and

    PTMO ($1395)
    2 Endeavour House,
    Captain Cook Crescent
    Griffith ACT 2603.

    They got me and the Bank St George Bank Account is real (BSB 112-879 Ac 477611175).

    St George do nothing about it.
    Very unimpressed.

    The banks do not impress as they did nothing significant after being advised.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for sharing with us your unfortunate experience with PTMO.

      They seem to be using a myriad of addresses in order to avoid detection when people do searches on their details.

      We are very sorry to hear that you have been stung by their clever scam. We recommend that you ensure that they do properly renew your trademark. If they don’t, you can pursue them for fraud.

      IP Australia, who administer trademarks in Australia, have a page about these scams which you might find useful at:

      https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/ip-infringement/more-about-ip-infringement/unsolicited-invoices

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