As the end of the financial year approached we saw an increase in reports of false billing and unsolicited invoices being sent to IP rights owners. In some cases these invoices have the appearance of coming from an official source. But it is important to know the companies sending such invoices are not linked to any government agency or IP office and you are NOT obliged to pay their fees.
What are false billing and unsolicited invoices?
False billing and unsolicited invoices are offers from companies for services in conjunction with your IP, often about renewals or offering overseas registration. These offers aren’t illegal, so long as a service is actually delivered. They are, however, generally offering these services at greatly inflated cost. The wording in these bills or invoices can often imply customers are required to pay for the services outlined. However it is important to note you are not obliged to pay their fees.
These false billing and unsolicited invoices may offer to:
- register or renew your IP right for a fee over and above the actual registration or renewal fee
- publish your patent or trade mark in an international publication or register
- provide a monitoring service for your patent or trade mark.
Letters from unfamiliar organisations should be treated with caution, especially letters requesting payment for unsolicited services. Whatever services might be offered, they bear no connection to us or any of our official publications.
Why have you received false billing and unsolicited invoices?
We include warnings to all IP right owners within correspondence sent and ask our customers to be vigilant. Misrepresentation to our customers is not tolerated and we continue to work closely with enforcement parties.
What you CAN expect to receive from us
It’s important to remember all correspondence sent from us will be available via your eServices account. You can simply log in and confirm the correspondence is official.
If you’re in any doubt about an invoice you have received, don’t pay the fee until you have checked with us or your attorney (if you’ve used one). You can either log in to eServices to confirm the correspondence is official or email us a copy of your unwanted or misleading invoice or letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think you’ve been a victim
If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam it’s unlikely you can get your money back. However there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself.
Report a false bill or unsolicited invoice
The Australian Competition and& Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides information to consumers and small businesses on their SCAMwatch website to help you recognise, avoid and report false billing or unsolicited invoices. You can also contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) or the Department of Fair Trading in your state.
Examples and further reading
Here you’ll find more info on false billing and unsolicited invoices, including examples and a list of organisations known to send them.