Four-year prison sentence for misleading invoices

Entrepreneurs who have applied for trademark registration at BOIP often receive misleading invoices. We regularly issue warnings about the problem, but unfortunately cannot prevent it. From time to time, scammers are successfully prosecuted in the courts. The court in Brussels recently handed down a four-year prison sentence for sending fraudulent invoices. We hope that that will act as a deterrent and the end of such practices is in sight.

What do we mean by misleading invoices?

We are referring here to letters that appear to have been sent by BOIP, EUIPO, WIPO or another official body. Usually, they offer a service or request a payment. Often, they bear the logo or address of an official body, such as BOIP, thereby misleading the recipient and giving the impression that the invoice needs to be paid. There are all kind of national and international initiatives, in which BOIP is involved, to combat these practices and indeed, from time to time, scammers are successfully prosecuted.

Four years behind bars

A recent example is a hefty four-year prison sentence handed down by the District Court of Brussels in a case brought in 2011 by the BMM (Benelux Association for Trademark and Design Law). The case uncovered a large criminal network behind the invoices, and the conviction of one of its members is an important step in the fight against fraudulent invoices.

Why is the BOIP Trademarks Register public?

The BOIP Trademarks Register is public, just like any business register. Anyone must be able to search the Trademarks Register to ascertain whether the same or a very similar trademark has already been registered before they apply to register their own. Similarly, as a trademark holder, you also need to be able to check the Trademarks Register to see whether anyone has applied to register a trademark that resembles yours.

Given that the register can be viewed by the public, crooks can, unfortunately, also find the addresses of trademark holders there. We issue warnings regularly, on our website (permanent news item), on social media, and in our letters and e-mails.

What do I do if I am concerned about the authenticity of an invoice?

It should be noted that BOIP does not send invoices. When you apply to register a trademark, you receive confirmation by e-mail. A PDF setting out the fees is attached for your financial records.

If you are concerned about the authenticity of a letter or invoice, please consult the list of example misleading invoices on our website. If the letter you have received is not there, please feel free to call our Information Centre.

 

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