Watch out for this sophisticated “trademark renewal” scam

Business owners should be on red alert as experts warn about the email scam. Here’s how to spot and avoid it.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
Direct to your inbox Email Newsletter viewed on a phone

Sign up to the Startups Weekly Newsletter

Stay informed on the top business stories with’s weekly email newsletter


Experts are warning that business owners who have registered a trademark are at “constant risk” of falling victim to a sophisticated email hoax.

The con is an example of a phishing scam, where the sender attempts to steal personal information. Business owners are sent a renewal reminder months in advance of the renewal window. They are then told to send an inflated fee to take care of the extension.

Below, Jeanette Wood, CEO of Trademark Eagle, shares her tips on how to deal with “misleading invoices or renewal ‘reminders’.” Here’s how to spot and report the scam.

How the trademark renewal scam works

Setting up a trademark is one of the earliest steps involved in registering a new business. It is necessary for all companies with a recognisable logo or invention, and is done by signing up to the ‘trademark register’ on the website.

Within hours of this information being supplied, the details are then publicly shared on the UK’s Intellectual Property register including – often – a contact business email address.

This scam comes from bad actors who, using information from the IP register, will contact business owners claiming to be from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The invoices may refer to a “renewal monitoring service” or suggest for wider “protection” of your IP should you pay to be included in a European or international register.

Similar to the recent Companies House letter scam, they will then demand money or data and threaten a (fake) penalty from the IPO if the entrepreneur does not comply.

After compliance with the request, the sender will cease all communication and disappear with the money, likely before the business owner even realises they have been ripped off.

How to recognise the scam

According to Wood, there are three telltale signs of deceit that can help business owners discern if they are being defrauded:

1. What is the name of the sender?

Check the sender’s domain name and website without clicking any of the links in the email. You will only be contacted to renew your trademark by the IPO, or your third-party representative, so if the message has come from outside these organisations, it’s a fake.

“If you do not recognise the company offering this service then get in touch with your representative for clarification,” says Wood.

2. Is it using urgent language?

Scammers often attempt to cause stress for the business owner, as this heightened state of emotion makes you more vulnerable to scams and less likely to notice suspicious features.

“Red and bold text or the use of words like ‘important’ or ‘urgent’ in these letters are often indicative of a scam,” Wood adds.

3. How much is the invoice?

Typically, the cost of renewing a trade mark through official government channels is £200+VAT. However, the scam invoice has reportedly totalled over £1,000 in charges.

“If you receive an inflated invoice amount that is disproportionate to fees you usually pay, you could be targeted by a trade mark renewal scam,” Wood cautions.

What to do if you receive a scam email

Business property scams (relating to your company name, website domain, or trademark) are common. If you find yourself being sent a suspicious email or letter, the first thing to do is to stop all contact with the sender. Most importantly:

  • Do not send them any money
  • Do not provide any information they have asked for
  • Do not click on any links in the email

Send any related documents to the government inbox at, and contact Companies House immediately on 0303 1234 500. For good measure, forward all evidence on to Action Fraud, a police-run fraud reporting centre.

If you realise too late and have already shared personal or payment details, then contact your bank immediately to flag the transaction as fraudulent. They might be able to get your money back, or to protect your account from any future theft.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top