Anatomy of a Fake Renewal Notice
It makes me really angry when I see this sort of thing. It is so easy to scam busy entrepreneurs and staff members.
Because there are so many scams in the mystery shopping business, I’ve become pretty good at spotting fakes; it sickens me every time I hear about one of my Web Mystery Shoppers getting scammed. So let’s deconstruct this alleged trademark renewal letter I got the other day.
It Looks Credible At 1st Glance
But If You Look More Closely
Why Do They Get Away With This?
I’ve got to hand it to them: they understand human psychology and have used it to stay (just barely) within the law.
How often do you really read the dense paragraph after the words “IMPORTANT INFORMATION – PLEASE READ”? Very few people do. So most won’t even have noticed that they are charging $1,450 (for something you can do easily yourself for $350).
I did read far enough to spot the shocking price, but it wasn’t until confirming my gut feeling that this was a scam that I read the rest of that paragraph. They acknowledge towards the end that “we are not [the] Canadian Intellectual Property Office…. You can also contact your representative in order to assist you…” (They don’t point out that it is also easy to renew online without a representative, and that the actual fee is a tiny fraction of what they are charging.)
They also have a page of fine print on the back in a pale grey that is very difficult to read, so, again, almost nobody will read it.
One could possibly challenge the legality on the grounds that the letter says “Your trademark is about to expire. Start renewal date 2014-10-09.” When I went online and checked, it turns out mine isn’t up for renewal until 2018, so I’d say this is misleading advertising.
Note that they cleverly chose to date the letter (at the top) 3 months earlier, so if I hadn’t dealt with it right away I’d worry that it had been sitting on my desk for months. And a reader’s eyes will skip the word “start” and see “renewal date: 2014-10-09”. Since the document didn’t arrive till after that, the reader is even more likely to panic and think they’d better sign and get this in the mail ASAP.
So How Do You Renew A Canadian Trademark?
- Go to http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/wr01371.html.
- If you don’t already have an Industry Canada Account, follow the link on that page to create one. It is free and easy.
- Click the link for the Trademark Renewal Form. Select Renew Trademark on the left. Enter your trademark number (you can find this by doing a quick trademark search at http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr03082.html. That will also give you the date your trademark will expire.)
- Click “continue”. Then “Save selection”. Then you’ll see the $350 fee. Click “checkout”. Checkout and you are done.
Gee, for that they would have charged you an extra $1,100!