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.
There are a number of distinguishing features of this renewal notice.
- 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.
- 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.
- A strong warning that “if not renewed, your trademark will expire“, thus implying a sense of urgency in dealing with this renewal letter.
- 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:
- PTMO Limited is not associated with the official IP Australian office.
- PTMO Limited is an independent renewal processing company.
- This is is an optional offer.
- This is not an invoice or bill.
- 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.