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An intellectual property expert is warning business owners to be aware of scammers posing as the UK's official body.

The warning comes after the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) ruled late last year that a company trading as the ‘Intellectual Property Agency Ltd’ (IPA) was deliberately giving the impression that it was the UK Intellectual Property Office.

The IPA's director was fined £500,000 after persuading business owners with intellectual property rights to pay a vastly-inflated renewal fee for their trade mark registrations.

Now, intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers is calling on businesses to remain vigilant. The UK IPO has confirmed to Withers & Rogers that in 2015, it received 242 pieces of customer feedback about scam renewal notices, which is a small decrease on the previous year’s figure of 262. The organisation also confirmed that most of the customers that contacted them last year were aware that the notice they had received was a scam.

Karl Barnfather, chairman and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, said: “The UK IPO has been working hard to raise awareness of these IP scammers and it is good to see that their campaign is beginning to pay off. In 2013, there were 848 reported complaints about scam renewal notices and in the space of just two years, this figure has fallen by more than two-thirds.

“However, businesses should not be complacent. It is important to stay on the look-out for scams particularly as there are signs that the scammers are getting more creative and some of the fake notices can appear extremely convincing. IP managers may not be aware of such scams and could easily pay up without realising what they had done. If in doubt, businesses should contact a professional IP specialist for advice.”