Beware of emails and letters demanding payment to protect your intellectual property rights
Ensure they come from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and don’t make any payments until you know for sure
March 7, 2017 – OTTAWA, ON – Competition Bureau
Scammers are exploiting business owners’ desires to protect their bottom lines by sending official-looking “reminder notices” demanding hefty fees for urgent renewals to protect ownership of trademarks and patents.
Intellectual property (IP) is one of the building blocks of a successful business. Examples of intellectual property include business names, brand names or logos, slogans, domain names, new products or inventions and secret formulas. These valuable assets can be protected from copycats and competitors by registering a trademark, patent, industrial design or copyright. These rights must be registered and renewed with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) at regular intervals. CIPO is the authority in protecting IP in Canada. The governmental agency is responsible for the administration of IP rights and their renewal.
All owners of IP rights should beware of official-looking solicitations that are sent from private companies, rather than CIPO, often many months in advance of the renewal deadline. They may contain images of patents or trademarks, contact information, registration numbers and other information that is publicly available. All this very specific information makes these reminders appear authentic.
Tips to avoid falling for fake intellectual property rights solicitations:
- Check who sent the reminder: Emails from CIPO will come from an address ending in "@canada.ca"; letters will come from 50 Victoria St., Gatineau, QC, K1A 0C9. If the notice comes from elsewhere, it’s not from CIPO.
- Know what you owe: The fees requested in the solicitations are usually much higher than CIPO’s fees. Check CIPO’s list of fees for a complete list of fees per service.
- Plan ahead: Intellectual property rights need to be renewed at very specific times. For example, trademarks are renewed every 15 years and patents maintenance fees must be paid every year. To know when you are expected to renew your IP rights, consult CIPO’s list of fees.
- Read the fine print: It may confirm that the solicitation does not come from CIPO. If still unsure, contact CIPO to confirm that the solicitation is legitimate.
- Ask questions: If you have received an email or correspondence regarding the renewal of your trademark or patent, verify that it is legitimate by contacting the CIPO Client Service Centre at 1-866-997-1936, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Businesses who believe they have been misled should contact the Competition Bureau's Information Centre at 1‑800‑348‑5358 or CIPO’s Client Services Centre at 1-866-997-1936, or visit the Bureau's website to file a complaint. Businesses can also contact the Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre at 1‑888‑495‑8501, or visit its website.
Today’s alert is part of Fraud Prevention Month 2017. The Bureau and its partners will be making a number of announcements to help consumers and businesses recognize, reject and report fraud. Stay connected to make sure you have the information you need to arm yourself in the fight against fraud.
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