The UK Intellectual Property Office was pleased to announce this week, "IP scammers face record financial liability".
Those involved in the business of maintaining intellectual property rights will be familiar with the unsolicited letters that are sent to proprietors with exorbitant fees for maintaining these rights, or for putting these rights into a "directory". Furthermore, many of these requests look like they come from official Intellectual Property Offices, at least to many IP owners who are not familiar with dealing with Intellectual Property Offices on a regular basis.
Various Offices around the world have made it an important task to educate their customers about these organisations, for example, see the warnings from the UK, OHIM, the USA, Norway and New Zealand, and also some examples of the actual letters from WIPO.
The judgement handed down by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (and found here) orders the defendant, Intellectual Property Agency Limited and its sole director, Harri Mattias Jonasson, to pay £500,000. This is maximum this court can impose.
Bearing in mind the defendants made a profit of over £1.1 million, this is really only a small win for the Intellectual Property Office, and probably an even smaller one for those that have been duped into paying such inflated fees.
There is a lack of sympathy in some quarters for IP owners who go ahead and pay "silly" money. This is a little unfair in my view. These legal steps, added to continued awareness by Intellectual Property Offices and IP professionals alike, will hopefully go some way to making these businesses less lucrative.
However, it's flabbergasting that a firm can make such significant profits on the basis of UK rights alone, and I dread to think how much money this "industry" makes worldwide.
My own firm is very reasonably priced when it comes to UK and worldwide renewals. Perhaps we are missing trick (I say in jest). Those that have been duped, or could be in the future, will be pleased to know there are many firms out there who will provide a service tantamount to its value and who can also act as a barrier to the scammers.