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Beware of misleading invoices!

Monday 21 March 2011

The Trademarks Register is open to the public. Trademark owner’s details, such as name and address, are freely available. This is necessary, because anybody must be able to verify claims of the right on a trademark. The public nature of this data also allows all service providers to contact applicants.

Some of those service providers engage in less desirable practices. Offers are regularly made – particularly by companies not located in the Benelux territory – for the inclusion of trademarks in an ‘international register’ upon payment of a considerable fee. Such publications offer no additional advantages whatsoever compared to a trademark registration. In the past cases have been reported of applicants being offered services ‘for free’. However, careful perusal of the offer then revealed the conclusion of an actual contract for these services and at a considerable cost. In the past applicants have also received 'phantom invoices'.
There are also bonafide consultants (such as trademark agents) who offer their services by post to applicants who file a trademark directly with the BOIP, as applicants can decide to register a trademark themselves, or to use the services of an agent. And of course, any agent whose profession it is to advise applicants will charge for their services.

If you have filed a trademark yourself and receive offers by post for services related to your trademark, we advise you to keep the following advice in mind:

  • Establish whether it is clear who sent the offer. Is there a clear name, address, telephone number or a website provided? Is the letter signed? Is the name of the sender or other contact person given?
  • Is there an invoice? We advise strongly against paying invoices to businesses that are not known to you.
  • Never sign and return letters from unknown senders.
  • Is the offer being made to you clear and unambiguous?
  • Always read the letter in its entirety. Small print in particular can supply a lot of information on the nature of the services being offered, and who is offering them.
  • Typing errors and different sentence structure could be an indication that you are dealing with a misleading invoice.
  • There is no such thing as a free service!
  • When in doubt, never accept the offer – obtain further information.
  • If in doubt: Contact our Information Centre!

The BOIP regularly provides warnings whenever there is evidence of an untrustworthy service provider entering the market. Stay abreast of recent developments by following the news items on our website.