Category Archives: Trademarks

Trademark registration scam from WOTRA – World Organization for Trademarks

Businesses in Australia who have registered a trademark are currently being hit by a scam that originates from a company that calls themselves WOTRA – World Organization for Trademarks.  Their website is located at wotra-register.com.

An example of one of their letters, which strongly resembles an invoice that requires payment, is shown below.

WOTRA - World Organization for Trademarks

Registering a trademark is not an instant process. The registration is done through the government agency IP Australia.  After lodging an application and paying the appropriate fees, it can take up to 3 months before the trademark can be formally examined and accepted.  If accepted, it will then be advertised in the Australian Official Journal of Trade Marks. There will then be a period of 2 months during which anyone can oppose the registration. If there are no objections after 2 months, IP Australia will then shortly register the trademark for you.

As registering a trademark is usually a very infrequent process people go through, and as trademarks are renewed every 10 years, a number of organisations have sprung up that attempt to take advantage of this and potentially defraud trademark owners of significant sums of money.

One common type of scam occurs when an organisation contacts you before your trademark renewal is sent out to you by IP Australia, offering to conduct the very simple renewal process at cost typically many times more than the cost of doing this yourself.  An example of this is PTMO – Patent & Trademark Organisation.

Another type scam, as perpetrated by WOTRA – World Organization for Trademarks, involves contacting owners of new trademarks during that 2 month period where people can object to your trademark, just before it is formally registered.

How this scam works is that trademark owners are posted a letter which has this sender listed on the envelope:

WOTRA
World Organization for Patents and Trademarks
Budapest 1005
Hungary

Inside this envelope is a single page letter with the heading “Important Notification Regarding Your Trademark“.  The letter looks very official, listing the trademark owner’s name and address, a colour picture (if applicable) of the actual trademark, the correct trademark number and the correct date that the application was lodged.

The letter strongly resembles an invoice, with a “balance due” and detailed payment instructions.  One could be forgiven for thinking this is a payment required for a trademark to be recognised world-wide, given that it is sent out by the very official sounding “World Organization for Trademarks”.

The particular sample here has an amount due of $2,719, with a note that if it is not paid by the due date, it will be regarded as being “late”, thus a $60 late fee applies, taking the amount due to an eye-watering grand total of $2,779.

In small print on the page is a sequence of very long sentences that includes this:

“…the publishing of the public registration of your trademark is the basis of our offer…we offer the registration of your trademark dates in our private database…the contract is irrevocable and legally binding for one year…this private registration hasn’t any connection with the publication of official registrations, and is not a registration by a government organisation…(this) is not an invoice but a solicitation without obligation to pay…”

So basically you are paying WOTRA – World Organization for Trademarks the very significant sum of $2,719 just to list your trademark’s registration date in their private database which has no benefit other than allowing people to see it on the website wotra-register.com.  Also worrying is the fact this so-called contract is only for one year, so if you do end up paying, you may end up being billed $2,719 every year.

While WOTRA do say the letter is not an invoice, it does strongly resemble one. There is a “balance due” section, a “due date” listed, and a section devoted to the penalties incurred if payment is late.

Two payment options are listed.  One is by cheque, which is to be sent to:

WOTRA Kft.
P.O. Box 221
9002 Gyor 2
Hungary

Or you can pay by bank transfer:

Beneficiary:  WOTRA Kft.
Bank name:    NHB Bank
IBAN:         HU55 1140 0040 0300 3292 4210 0013
BIC / SWIFT:  KULBHUHB
Bank address: 1118 Budapest

If you receive a letter from WOTRA, it is strongly advised that you do not pay the $2,719 they request, as they have nothing to do with your trademark registration.  Having a listing with WOTRA does not in any way mean your trademark is registered for world-wide use.

If you have received an unsolicited letter from WOTRA requesting payment, you are encouraged report it via the ACCC’s ScamWatch page.

For any general questions about trademarks in Australia, refer to IP Australiawww.ipaustralia.gov.au.

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.

Trademark publication scam now hitting Australian travel & tourism businesses

scam
Scams – targeting individuals, businesses and companies.

Australian travel and tourism businesses are regularly the target of scams that are designed to defraud them.

Recently, there’s been a wave of scams directed at those businesses who have registered a trademark. What you get is an unsolicited letter in the post that features an image of your trademark, your personal contact details and a few words about your trademark in an international database. Included with this letter is a remittance slip, effectively convincing you this a bill that you must pay to support your trademark registration.

If you read the small print, the only thing you’ll actually get out of all this, after you pay the exorbitant publication fee which is usually around the $1,000 mark, is having your trademark published on some overseas low profile website.

What these scammers hope is that you’re so busy that you’ll simply pay the invoice without giving too much thought to it. Or that the invoice goes to the accounts department of your organisation, who will be under instruction to ensure the trademark remains registered. After all, if they have your personal name, address and trademark details, it must be a legitimate bill, right? Wrong…all those details can be viewed by any member of the public on the web via the federal government’s official Australian Trade Marks Online Search System (ATMOSS).

The latest flood of trademark invoice scams is coming from IDRTM – International Database of Registered Trade Marks which has a website at www.trademarkpublisher.info.  You are then asked to send your payment to this address in Sydney:

TM Publisher
Suite 65 Seabridge House
377 Kent Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Technically, they are probably not breaking any laws by using terms like “we recommend” and “if you want” and not stamping a “due by” date on the invoice.  However, they are hoping that out of the thousands of these they send out, a few people will simply pay without a second thought.

Below is a letter/invoice from IDRTM or TM Publisher, so you can be aware of what’s going on if you receive one of these.

trademark scam
Scammers at work, requesting money for your trademark to be listed in an unknown international database.