Joining of forces to tackle misleading adverts

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Trading Standards have joined forces to try and bring an end to the misleading invoices which have been sent out in respect of the renewal of IP rights.

As we have previously reported in our articles “Unsolicited reminders about renewal of IP rights – is this the beginning of the end….?”  and “Unsolicited reminders about renewal of IP rights”, there are various organisations who are sending out unsolicited reminders about the renewal of all IP rights, namely patents, designs and trade marks.  The reminders are usually sent to the IP owner a long time in advance of the renewal deadline, and the invoice is paid as the IP owner believes the same to be from either their IP advisor or the relevant UK or European Intellectual Property Office.  However, these invoices are for inflated amounts, far more than should be paid for the renewal of the IP.

Now for the good news…

Trading Standards have agreed to become the legal backstop power for the ASA.  This means that the ASA can refer advertisers who persist in sending such invoices, whether misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair, to Trading Standards.  Trading Standards have the authority to issue legal sanctions against the advertisers under consumer and business protection laws.

The agreement between the ASA and Trading Standards is a positive step in the battle against misleading correspondence.  The possibility of sanctions being issued against a company which issues misleading invoices should hopefully act as a deterrent. 

Our advice remains that if you receive an unsolicited reminder, we suggest that you are cautious, and check it out with us. Your usual contact will be happy is check anything you are unsure about but then general rule of thumb is that all requests for payments of renewal fees should come directly from Barker Brettell or directly from the UK or Community Trade Mark Offices

It is also possible to check on various official websites to see if the advertiser it known to be a problem.  The UK IPO has a warning page which gives information on what to look out for.  Similar pages can be found on the website of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and on the OHIM website in respect of trademarks and designs.  You can also visit the websites of the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).