BUSINESSES have been urged to watch out for a scam which could trick them into paying invoices for many hundreds of pounds.

The boss of an award-winning Dorset business said he didn’t know whether to be “disappointed or impressed” by a bill for trademark registration services.

Chris Palmer, owner of IT firm AnyTech Solutions in Poole, received an invoice for £986, headed “World Organization for Trademarks”, shortly after lodging an application to extend his own business’s trademark.

He shared the experienced on the business networking site LinkedIn to alert other companies, writing: “Don't know whether to be disappointed or impressed?”

He said: “Had we not been experienced in branding and design we could have paid it as it looks official and is worded in a way that we are supposed to pay it.

“The reason I'm disappointed and impressed is I am blown away by the inventiveness of the scam but disappointed that there are clearly so many people out there that will pay these that a business can survive and possibly thrive from much pain they will cause to businesses.”

Mr Palmer told the Daily Echo he had received the email himself. “It came in by email as a trade marking invoice and just straight away struck us as a bit dodgy,” he said.

All trademark applications are put on a public register and go out to consultation, giving the public a chance to lodge objections.

But the process also gives scammers the opportunity to contact the applicants with official-looking demands for fees.

“If you weren’t in a branding environment, you would not know that this wasn’t normal practice,” Mr Palmer added.

The invoices arrive before payment to the proper authorities is due, so some firms could rubber-stamp them for payment.

Mr Palmer added: “’Registration is going to cost us anything between £400 and £500. It can be more. But they’re billing us for £900 straight off the bat for registration.”

The government has warned people to beware of misleading invoices offering to help protect intellectual property rights for a fee. Businesses are urged to check with their solicitors or advisers, or ring 0300 300 2000.