New Zealand companies are experiencing increased activity from overseas trademark and domain name scammers. Could your business be at risk?
New Zealand businesses are urged to be on the lookout for overseas scammers who appear to be targeting local businesses regarding unsolicited trademark and domain name services with increasing frequency.
Intellectual property expert Theodore Doucas of Zone IP and Zone Law, an intellectual property consultancy and law firm in Wellington, said over the last few months his firm has received triple the usual amount of calls and emails from businesses on the receiving end of the scammers.
"I'm not sure why there has been an increase in unsolicited activity from a number of scammers - in particular out of China and Hungary - but it may be because not enough is being done to warn local businesses about these scams.
"The Australian Trade Mark Registry (IP Australia) actually publishes a list of scammers, but Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) does not. So it may be that lack of education makes us easier targets."
Doucas, who consults on trademarks in both New Zealand and Australia, said it was easy for scammers to collect contact details because the contact information of companies along with their trademark details is public information on the IPONZ and IP Australia Trade Mark Registers.
Common scams include an email from a Chinese company claiming that somebody else is applying for the same trademark or domain name in China, under pretence of having links with the New Zealand company.
The company then offers to represent the New Zealand company or buy the domain name on behalf of the New Zealand company for a fee.
"Increasingly I get inquiries from people who have been sent a letter by a Hungarian company with what looks like an invoice, claiming that the recipient's renewal fee is now due and to please pay US$1600.00. This is especially prevalent for New Zealand businesses who have filed their trademark applications in Australia.
"When you realise that a standard renewal fee in New Zealand is $100 or A$350 in Australia, you can see immediately that it is a scam.
"My advice when you receive an unsolicited email or letters about trademarks, domain names or intellectual property in general - and you are unsure about it - is to consult an intellectual property lawyer or expert to put your mind at rest," he said.
The list of scammers known to send unsolicited requests identified by IP Australia include:
* Globus Edition SL, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
* Company for Economic Publications Ltd, Vienna, Austria
* IT & TAG, Switzerland
* Company for Publications and Information Anstalt, Liechtenstein
* INFOCOM, Schaan, Switzerland
* Edition The Marks KFT
* International Bureau for Federated Trademark & Patent Register
* Gaia Almanach LTD
* Commercial Centre for Industry and Trade, Switzerland
* European Institute for Economy and Commerce EIEC, Belgium
* Institute of Commerce, Trade and Commerce, Switzerland
* TM Collection, Hungary.
Article originally published on bizbuzz.co.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News
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