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Advertising Standards Authority finds against The Trademark Office Limited t/a Patent & Trademark Office.
The Advertising Standards Authority, which is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, recently upheld a number of complaints against a company by the name of The Trademark Office Limited (TOL) trading as Patent & Trademark Office. TOL is not a part of or affiliated with the UK Intellectual Property Office.
TOL sent direct mailing adverts to intellectual property rights holders as reminders to pay renewal fees for a trade mark or patent with the word ‘REMINDER’ printed at the top in large print. The ASA received four complaints regarding such adverts. Three of the complaints were that the adverts were misleading as they implied a connection with the UK Intellectual Property Office and the other was that the adverts gave the impression that the patent had been renewed when this was not the case.
The ASA upheld all of the complaints. The decision to uphold the complaints was made on the grounds that the adverts were misleading because they “did not make it clear that The Trademark Office [TOL] was a private company with no affiliation to [the UK Intellectual Property Office]” and that “consumers may believe their patent would be renewed by [TOL], when actually they had no authority to do this themselves”. As a consequence of this decision, the ASA has ordered that the adverts must not appear in their current form again.
This is a good result for owners of registered intellectual property rights. It is unfortunately rather common for companies or individuals who own trade marks, designs or patents to receive unsolicited correspondence from companies offering to renew their intellectual property rights. Both the UK Intellectual Property Office and the Community Trade Marks Office have dedicated websites (http://www.ipo.gov.uk/warning.htm and http://oami.europa.eu/ows/rw/pages/CTM/feesPayment/warning.en.do) relating to this issue.
Owners of registered intellectual property rights should carefully review any correspondence they receive regarding their registered rights before paying any fees and confirm exactly what they are paying for and who they are paying. If there is any doubt regarding any correspondence, owners should in the first instance contact their patent attorney, trade mark attorney, solicitor, legal representative or the relevant intellectual property office.
If you have any trade mark or patent questions then call our friendly team on +44(0)161 827 9400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.