IP scammers face record financial liability
Company scamming IPO customers found liable for trade mark infringement and passing off.
A prolific and persistent scammer, responsible for deliberately scamming Intellectual Property Office (IPO) customers, was today found liable for trade mark infringement and passing off and ordered to pay £500,000 plus legal costs.
A company trading as ‘Intellectual Property Agency Ltd (IPA)’ and the director Mr Harri Mattias Jonasson were found to have deliberately set out to deceive intellectual property owners by issuing scam renewal notices. By giving the impression that IPA was the IPO, or connected with it, IPA was able to persuade owners of trade marks and patents to engage it to renew those rights at a cost of up to 6 times the official renewal fees.
The judgment handed down by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) provides the IPO with the maximum financial award possible from this court.
IP Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:
I welcome this judgment and the stiff sanctions. Deliberately misleading consumers into thinking they are engaging with an official government agency, is a very serious matter.
Such misrepresentations of this kind, will not be tolerated and with the help of the IPO we take the issue of protecting IP seriously across government. We are also working with the City of London Police Fraud Team to combat this type of behaviour. I would encourage customers to report this type of scam - invoice fraud- to the Action Fraud website.
Initially IPA offered to negotiate and mediate, but ultimately they were unwilling to provide all the legal undertakings the IPO required.
IPA instead filed a defence at the IPEC early in December 2014. The judgment today follows a hearing that took place at the IPEC on the 29th September.
The IPO is working to educate its customers about the danger posed by scammers such IPA by issuing explicit warnings to users of the IPO naming the organisations concerned. Warning messages have also been placed on the IPO web site and other similar international IP offices such as OHIM and the European Patent Office.
Customer feedback has shown an overall reduction in scam renewal notices. In 2014 262 people told the IPO that they had received such notices compared to 848 in 2013.
During 2015, the total number of customer complaints about scam renewals as of the end of October was 224. The judgment of IPEC is therefore an important step in the continuing fight to stop the scammers.
More information is available on the Action Fraud web site.
Notes to editors
Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is within the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. The IPO’s role is to help manage an intellectual property system that: encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge-based economy.
The IPO operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to intellectual property which the United Kingdom is a party.