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Fraud by The Trademark Office

May 2019. The Trademark Office’s website certainly looks reliable and professional enough. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. This company in Heerhugowaard has been selling domain name registrations under false pretences to Dutch entrepreneurs for several years now. And with some success: many businesses fall for it and end up signing long-term registration contracts.

So if you see this logo – beware!

Old Chinese ploy

This ploy isn’t new; we’ve come across it before with Chinese fraudsters. So what’s involved? Essentially, The Trademark Office calls company ABC and says they’ve just been approached by one of its competitors to register the domain name ABC.eu (or another extension). Being a fine upstanding organisation, The Trademark Office naturally felt it should get in touch with ABC to check if this was OK. In fact, it wants to give ABC the opportunity to register the name itself – obviously through The Trademark Office. Such decency! And how kind, to help ABC pip the domain name hijacker to the post! And so they arrange to protect ABC.eu for a further 10 years.

Nice little earner

In fact, of course, nobody has applied to register the domain name ABC.eu. Aided by its reputable-sounding name and professional-looking website, The Trademark Office has merely succeeded in frightening the hapless entrepreneur. The latter then thinks he should get in quickly and sign a 10-year registration agreement to protect himself. Result: a nice little earner for The Trademark Office.

Tip 1: just hang up

Obviously, our number one tip is: if you get The Trademark Office on the line, hang up immediately! Although that’s often easier said than done. The callers initially sound very plausible and before you know it you’ve walked into their trap. So that’s where our second key tip comes in.

Tip 2: don’t pay up

If you find you’ve been duped, just don’t pay up. Research by Chiever has established that The Trademark Office has already lost quite a few of the proceedings in the Netherlands it’s brought against clients who refused to pay. In many of these cases, the District Court had no hesitation in describing the methods used by The Trademark Office as ‘fraudulent’. So if they take you to court for default of payment, you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning your case.

Tip 3: advice for The Trademark Office

Finally, here’s a piece of free advice for our respected friends in Heerhugowaard: change your name and your website, because Dutch companies are starting to get wise to you. The courts also sit up and take notice when they hear your name. So how about calling yourselves the Benelux Domain Name Bureau® instead?

Bas Kist