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Serious case of fraud: German Patent and Trade Mark Office warns of misleading payment requests

Trade mark owners are being invited by scammers to make payment transfers on a massive scale – DPMA has initiated criminal investigations

Press release of 22 November 2019

Munich. On the occasion of a particularly serious case, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) warns of fraudulent and misleading payment requests for registered IP rights. The current case concerns invoices for trade mark registrations which illegally contain the logo of the DPMA and the forged signature of a high-ranking staff member of the DPMA, and request payment of certain amounts to foreign accounts. The forged invoices, which have so far come to the attention of the DPMA, appear to have been sent by stamped letter. They refer to a Polish bank account. Since midday on Tuesday, Central Customer Care and Services of the Munich office has received far more than 1,000 calls and around 300 written enquiries from alarmed citizens. “This is obviously a particularly bold case of fraud,” said DPMA President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer and added: “This is why we have arranged for criminal prosecution in this matter.”

The DPMA does not issue invoices!

The DPMA advises against responding in any way to such requests for payment. The office emphasises that it does not send any official invoices or payment requests in respect of filing fees, annual fees and renewal fees. Acknowledgements of receipt, sent by the DPMA following the filing of a trade mark application, contain only information on fees. Applicants themselves are responsible for the timely transfer of fees. No additional fees are charged for the publication of IP rights in the official registers. Money transfers to the DPMA should be made only to the account of the Bundeskasse, IBAN DE84 7000 0000 0070 0010 54.

Apparently, the fraudulent intent of the recent letter has not been recognisable for everyone. In one case, a customer contacted the DPMA who said that he had already instructed his bank to transfer money to a Polish account. A bank adviser then drew his attention to the discrepancies.

How to recognise dubious letters

Beyond the current case, citizens are repeatedly asked to pay alleged fees or are confronted with dubious offers, in an illegal or misleading way. Often, such letters cannot be identified as offers at first sight and in many cases, this becomes only obvious by carefully reading the small print or the terms and conditions that are sometimes printed on the back. Those who receive such communications containing requests for payment in connection with IP rights should always carefully read them. Indications that these are not official letters are, for example, bank details of a company abroad, e.g. in Poland (PL), Cyprus (ZY), Tunisia (TN) or Bulgaria (BG), a pre-filled transfer slip and that the address given does not correspond to that of an authority.

Further information on misleading payment requests and official fees is available on the DPMA website (Misleading Requests for Payment).

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity require effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of over 2,600 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services for inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and further develop the national, European and international protection systems.

Last updated: 25 November 2019 

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