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Firms warned over register.

Byline: John Revill

Midland firms have been warned to beware of letters which demand almost pounds 500 in return for an entry on a European trademark register.

Dozens of companies across the region have been sent invoices claiming to come from the European Institute for Economy and Commerce.

In return for pounds 479.75, the EIEC offers to place companies' new inventions on the register of protected trademarks.

But firms do not need to be entered on EIEC's database which offers them no protection and is not an official European Union body.

Chris Hey, from Birmingham-based patent attorneys Withers & Rogers, said companies should ignore the letters.

He said: 'This is not an official European Union letter, but it can still appear very convincing to people who have just registered the trademark on their new invention.

'We have already had inquiries from more than a dozen of our clients in the last few weeks asking if they need to pay this company to be registered on its list.

'But the only thing in return for almost pounds 500 is that people will appear on a list of other companies who have been tricked as well.'

Mr Hey said although the EIEC letter may not be illegal, it preyed on many companies' anxieties following the registering of new devices.

He said: 'Thoughts of trademarks are going through their mind and they may think they need to pay to appear on this register as well so they could pay up.

'The amount is just under pounds 500, which could be the threshold for senior managers to sign off an invoice, and people could just pay it without thinking.

'The language can be very convincing and the companies contacted appear shortly after their new invention appears in the journals of the UK Trade Mark Registry.'

Mr Hey advised companies to ignore the letters, or if uncertain to contact the UK Trades Mark Registry.

He said: 'The only way to register trade marks is to do so in the UK, in individual countries or centrally through the EU trade mark office.

'Next year we are expecting companies to receive letters saying they need to pay to register their trademarks in the ten new countries which join the EU. These letters may look and sound official, but our advice would be to ignore them or if still concerned to contact their trademark and patent attorney.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 27, 2003
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