Originally published 8 September 2011

Keywords: China, intellectual property, trademark, patent, PCT International Patent System, Madrid System, WIPO,

In addition to domain name and trade mark scams from China, there are now dishonest solicitations with regard to International Trademark Registrations under the Madrid System and patents filed under the PCT International Patent System. Patent and trade mark owners - beware!

In the past few years, IP scams coming out of China have expanded from domain names to trade marks. Please see our previous alert "Domain Name and Trade Mark Scams in China" published on 25 March 2011. Recently, inbound scams from overseas to Chinese entities are discovered.

On 25 August 2011, the Trademark Office in China issued a notice of caution to alert applicants and their agents who had filed applications or obtained registrations under the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks that they might receive letters, facsimiles or emails with dishonest and unofficial solicitation for payment of fees from overseas organisations or entities who held themselves out to be official or quasi-official trademark bodies.

This caution notice advises that the following features are often found in a dishonest solicitation:

  1. Use of names, abbreviations or signs which are identical or similar to the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") or other foreign trademark offices;
  2. Incorporation of the Madrid International Registration Number, applicant's details, specimen of trade mark and specification (all being searchable information available online in the WIPO's website);
  3. Request for payment of fees to handle registration, renewal or provide monitoring service;
  4. Request for payment of fees for other purposes.

The WIPO has also issued a similar notice of caution to alert right owners about scams targeting at patents filed under the PCT International Patent System. The WIPO's notice reads as follows:

"It has come to the attention of the International Bureau that PCT applicants and agents are receiving invitations to pay fees that do not come from the International Bureau of WIPO and are unrelated to the processing of international applications under the PCT. Whatever registration services might be offered in such invitations, they bear no connection to WIPO or to any of its official publications. The invitations often identify a particular PCT application by its international publication number (e.g., WO 02 xxxxxx), publication date, title of the invention, international application number, priority information and IPC symbols."

Examples of such invitations can be viewed at the WIPO website (http://www.wipo.int/pct/en/warning/pct_warning.htm).

Trade mark and patent owners should be cautious of suspicious solicitations. Before responding to any suspicious communications, we recommend that you should consult or verify with your own IP agents, the relevant government IP office and/or the WIPO, as the case may be.

Learn more about our PRC offices and Intellectual Property practice.

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This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein. Please also read the JSM legal publications Disclaimer.