Like buses, you wait for ages and then two turn up in quick successions.
In common with the others, the scam revolves around sending you an invoice for something that either doesn’t exist or if it does exist, it’s not worth a penny, never mind what they are charging.
Recently, Aqueous applied for a Trademark on our logo through the normal channels. It seems that somewhere along the line this data is being shared or made available to third parties because before our trademark had even been granted, we received this letter from The World Organization for Trademarks, or WOTRA for short.
The letter looks like this;
It was sent to our Registered Company address and luckily this meant it was intercepted before anyone in Finance saw it. In a larger organisation, this could easily slip through the net and get paid without a second thought, particularly if you are in the business of registering a lot of trademarks.
It is designed to look like you have already committed to something and there is a field, top left, which says “Published 13/06/2018”. Of course, this looks like you are already in some sort of publication and you owe them money for it.
Wrong. You owe them nothing, Yet.
The letter advises that there is a ‘Filing Fee’ though what this is for is never stated. As our application was done using our UK Solicitors then there’s no reason for us to pay anyone in Hungary.
It even has the cheek to ask for your VAT number, so they can claim that the transaction is between EU member states and therefore VAT exempt.
Where the fun starts is at the bottom where it says;
“the publishing of the public registration of your trademark is the basis of our offer. We offer the registration of your Trademark dates in our private database.”
In other words, they are keeping your data privately on their systems and noting the dates when your Trademark is filed and if applicable, when it ends.
They aren’t agreeing to publish it anywhere, nor to compile some sort of definitive register. Just to keep it on their private database.
How very kind…
And the price for this, just £986
This is completely pointless and of course is not something you should ever have anything to do with.
The confirmation is that in the letter they send there are T&C’s and if you read the small print, the second paragraph states:
“A database is to be understood as an integrated system of information operated by the Service Provider providing information from national, EU and international registers that is otherwise not accessible to the public”
That’s clear then. Not accessible to the public, so absolutely no use to anyone at all, other than WOTRA themselves.
As with all of these things, it’s worth throwing the doors open wide and letting some light in on their terms and conditions, so if you want to read them, in the interests of transparency, we are reproducing them here in full;
1.1 WOTRA Korlátolt Felel?sség? Társaság (registered office: Széchenyi István tér 7-8; HU- 1051 Budapest) commercial register number: Cg. 01-09-271455; tax number: 25374146-2-42, statistical indicator: 25374146-6399-113-01; central email address: email@example.com; hereinafter referred to as the Service Provider) operates the database. 1.2 These General Terms and Conditions (hereinafter referred to as GTC) contain the general terms and conditions for the use of the prepaid service provided by the Service Provider as set out in section 1.5 of these GTC and the rights and obligations of the contracting parties when using the prepaid service. These GTC apply to the Service Provider as well as to the customers who conclude a contract with the Service Provider for the use of the prepaid service provided by the Service Provider. The legal relationship between Service Provider and Customer shall not be subject to the Customer’s general terms and conditions or similar documents, if any. Service Provider. The Service Provider shall make the GTC available to the Customer in such a way that allows them to print them. 1.3 The Customer is the natural person or legal entity who pays the Service Provider the service charge for the access to the prepaid service in accordance with section 1.5 of these GTC (hereinafter referred to as the Customer).
1.4 A database is to be understood as an integrated system of information operated by the Service Provider providing information from national, EU and international registers that is otherwise not accessible to the public. It is available to the Customer after payment of the Service Fee for access to the prepaid service in accordance with section 1.5 of the GTC. The Customer has access to it through its user identifier (ID) (hereinafter referred to as the Database). The Database allows the Customer to monitor and filter patents, trademarks and utility models registered or about to be registered in the national, EU and international registers, as well as access to the electronically stored data of patents, trademarks, utility models and their authorised users in these registers. 1.5 The prepaid service includes access to the fee-based content of the database on the Service Provider’s homepage wotra-register.com for a period of 1 year after the payment of the Service Fee (hereinafter referred to as Prepaid Service). 1.6 The service fee is the fee payable to the Service Provider for access to the Prepaid Service that the Customer pays to the Service Provider in advance in accordance with the Service Provider’s offer for the time being (hereinafter referred to as the Service Fee).
1.7 The GTC shall enter into force upon the conclusion of the contract through the provision of the Prepaid Service between the Service Provider and the Customer. The full agreement between the Service Provider and the Customer on the Prepaid Service consists of the order form used for this purpose (individual contract) and its appendices, as well as the provisions of the GTC. These GTC shall apply primarily to issues not specified in the order form used for this purpose (not covered in the individual contract). In the event of interpretation issues, as well as differences between the text of the order form (individual contract) and the GTC, the text of the order form (the individual order) shall take precedence. 1.8 The Service Provider is entitled to a unilateral amendment of the GTC, provided that it informs the Customer about it in writing in due time before these amendments become effective. The amended provisions of the GTC shall only become part of the agreement if and when the Customer expressly accepts them after having been informed thereof.
CUSTOMER’S WITHDRAWAL FROM THE OFFER AND THE ORDER
2.1 An agreement can be reached between the Service Provider and the Customer on the provision of the Prepaid Service: (i) without conclusion of a contract, by submitting the order form available for this purpose on the homepage of the Service Provider wotra-register.com, provided this has been confirmed by the Service Provider in writing – within 7 days from dispatch of order – and the Customer has paid the Service Fee specified in the current offer by the Service Provider; the Service Provider is not obliged to enter into a contract, to accept or confirm the order; (ii) with conclusion of a specific contract, provided the Customer has paid the Service Fee specified in the current offer by the Service Provider.
2.2 A poorly or incorrectly filled out order form does not constitute a declaration forming the basis for a conclusion of a contract for the provision of the Prepaid Service. Such order forms do not constitute any obligation for the Service Provider. 2.3 The Customer may withdraw from the contract within 8 days after conclusion of the contract for the provision of the Prepaid Service without giving reasons. The effective date for the contract on the provision of the Prepaid Service is the day on which the Service Fee is paid.
GENERAL TERMS OF PAYMENT
3.1 The Service Provider shall render the Prepaid Service for the Customer against payment of the Service Fee in accordance with its current offer. 3.2 The Customer has to pay the Service Fee by bank transfer to the bank account designated by the Service Provider. Payment shall be considered as made when the relevant gross amount is credited to the Service Provider’s bank account.
EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY AND MISCELLANEOUS TERMS
4.1 The Service Provider uses the contents of the national, EU and international registers for the compilation of the database “as is” and assumes no liability for the correctness and completeness of the information contained in these registers. 4.2 The Service Provider shall not be liable for any direct or indirect damages, for loss of profits, loss of business, for loss of business opportunities or cessation of business development resulting from the access to, use or non-usability of wotra-register.com, even if the Service Providers could have known of the possibility of such damages or loss. 4.3 The Service Provider reserves the right to suspend, restrict or interrupt the use of the database by the Customer at any time without separate notice at its sole discretion, especially, but not exclusively, if the use of the database by the Customer is aimed at unlawful purposes.
TERMINATION AND CANCELLATION
5.1 The contract on the provision of the Prepaid Service shall automatically end upon expiry of the fixedperiod of one year and cannot be cancelled by ordinary termination. 5.2 Each of the parties is entitled to terminate the contract for provision of the Prepaid Service with immediate effect in the case of a breach by the other party. Before immediate termination of the contract for the provision of the Prepaid Service, the contracting party is required to give the other contracting party a reasonable period of time for taking corrective actions of the defaults which constitute reason for the termination (as far as they can be remedied ). Any circumstance which makes further cooperation with the other contracting party unacceptable is considered a valid reason for termination.
6.1 In particular, all information or documents and other data carriers of the contracting parties, which were classified confidential by the parties concerned in writing or otherwise or whose confidential nature results from the nature of the relevant information, documents or data carrier, including the business secrets of the contracting parties, is considered confidential information. 6.2 Both parties are committed to the confidential treatment of all confidential information and documents. They have to make sure that unauthorised persons do not have access to confidential information. The duty of confidentiality of the contracting parties does not end, even after the cancellation or termination of the individual contract, irrespective of the reason thereof.
APPLICABLE LAW, LEGAL DISPUTES
7.1 These GTC and the individual contracts are subject to Hungarian law. 7.2 The parties shall attempt to settle controversial issues relating to these GTC or the contract for the provision of the Prepaid Service through negotiations, initially out of court. Should these negotiations be unsuccessful, the parties may apply to the Hungarian court having jurisdiction overthe registered office of the Service Provider within 30 days after the start of the negociations.*
*Please note, all typo’s are theirs, not ours.
Is it a real invoice and do I need to pay it?
No, it’s not an invoice at all and there is no need to pay it.
At the bottom, in small print, it says;
“This offer for registration is not an invoice but a solicitation without obligation to pay, unless our offer is accepted.”
In other words, as long as you don’t sign and date it and then post it back to them, you can safely ignore it.
If you do, then they will ask you to pay the specified amount within 14 days.
How long has the WOTRA scam been going?
The earliest mention of this particular issue is 12th November 2013 when it was placed on an Italian website (now sadly gone) but since then there have been hundreds of sightings of it in the wild.
Most recently there is a post on an Australian website warning that businesses in Australia have been receiving these letters as well.
It seems it is a worldwide and potentially lucrative venture.
Are WOTRA linked to WIPO?
From all our research it seems not. Despite WOTRA cheekily linking to WIPO from their website, there is no link between the two.
In fact, a search for “WOTRA scam” throws up a link to this WIPO List which shows a huge number of variations on this theme, so clearly WIPO believe this to be a scam
Who are WOTRA and where are they based?
The website data doesn’t give much away;
Domain Name: WOTRA-REGISTER.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1968491548_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.namecheap.com
Registrar URL: http://www.namecheap.com
Updated Date: 2018-01-25T20:46:04Z
Creation Date: 2015-10-14T14:18:07Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2019-10-14T14:18:07Z
Registrar: NameCheap Inc.
Registrar IANA ID: 1068
Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.6613102107
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Name Server: DNS1.REGISTRAR-SERVERS.COM
Name Server: DNS2.REGISTRAR-SERVERS.COM
URL of the ICANN Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form: https://www.icann.org/wicf/
>>> Last update of whois database: 2018-08-07T15:28:06Z <<<
The nameservers identify the hosts as Name Cheap but the IP address shows them as being hosted in The Netherlands.
Their backlink profile is typically empty although there are a couple of links from European websites who list scam operations.
Their address, according to the invoice, is:
P.O. Box 221, 9002 Györ 2, Hungary
Coincidentally, this is the same address that was associated with a previous scam organisation, IOPTS – INTERNATIONAL PATENT & TRADEMARK SERVICE
A search of Google maps throws up nothing interesting other than the fact that Györ is south of Bratislava and the postal service which holds their PO box is in the west of the City.
What should I do if I receive one of these letters?
Let’s be clear, what they are doing is not illegal.
They may be sending you unsolicited post but then so do lots of other people.
The invoice is not an invoice although it is designed to look like one and to slip seamlessly into the invoice pile of larger organisations who will then throw money their way without thinking about it.
Our advice is to bin the letter the instant you see it. And definitely, don’t reply or try to engage with them.
Feel free to let us know if you have received one of these or if you have been caught by them. We will happily post any further correspondence you receive from them on this site to act as a warning to others.