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Five Online scams for business owners to be aware of.

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In her latest blog post, Liz Ward of UK200Group member firm Virtuoso Legal, looks at 5 Online scams for business owners to be aware of.

1. Copyright registration services.

It is not necessary to register copyright material such as books, articles, music or software for it to be protectable in the EU. The internet abounds with copyright registration services which charge people but are completely worthless. If someone copies your material and you wish to sue them you will be required by the Courts to show that you originated the material. So your original documents will suffice in most instances as good evidence in Court. In most instances written works are computer generated and saved, as are MP3 type audio files. The electronic versions of these files will automatically date stamp the point of creation. The same applies for anything digitally generated such as photographs. Other types of copyright can be signed and dated if required. The registration services offered on line simply produce a certificate to say material has been filed online. It doesn’t evidence WHAT has been filed, and is useless in infringement actions.

2. Fake Trade Mark filing invoices

If you instruct an agent to file your trademarks, then they will invoice you and pay any disbursements due on your behalf to the trade mark office. Scammers regularly monitor trade mark applications and send applicants what look like genuine invoices but are in fact payments to the scammer’s account! We warn our clients about this when they file so that they don’t fall foul of this trick. People who file directly are regularly caught unawares and end up parting with thousands of pounds to these crooks.

3. Meaningless trade mark clearance searches.

There are dozens of low cost trade mark clearance searches available to people on the internet. However, these searches just do identical word searches which you can do for yourself in seconds at no cost. Other low cost services provide an automated report which requires you to review the trade mark specifications yourself. So unless you already know what you are doing and you’re familiar with trade mark classes and specifications the search is pretty worthless.

4. Filing trademarks without doing proper searches and obtaining expert advice on the value of registration.

The web provides some authentic looking websites who will file your trade mark at a low cost and without doing a search first. However, a key part of asking a professional is to get advice and get the branding right first time. The unscrupulous will take your money and file your trade mark with a generic specification regardless of merit or indeed other registrations. This often means businesses lose their money as marks are rejected by the Trade Mark Office, or opposed by third parties. Other customers spend money and then obtain a worthless mark which is difficult to defend.

5. Letters before action for infringement proceedings.

We’ve had a number of letters in from a variety of sources making various allegations about infringement of IP rights. Many of them get the law wrong and some come from non legal entities. However, litigation on behalf of a company is what is known as “reserved business.” Letters before action that come from non lawyers are rarely actionable.

The thing to bear in mind is that most of this is quite legal and although some of it is dubious to say the least, it is almost impossible to stop. It isn’t always true that you get what you pay for, but good legal advice will save you money in the long run and add value to your business. If you need help, then just pick up the telephone and ask us – 0113 237 9900 or 0207 406 7490. Don’t rely on non experts to waste your valuable time and resources.


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