|December 18, 2009
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TALLAHASSEE, FL – A Tallahassee judge ruled today that a Florida company and its president violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by sending out mass mailings which appeared to be invoices. According to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill McCollum's office, hundreds of companies all over the world made payments to Federated Institute for Patent and Trademark Registry, mistakenly believing they were being billed for legitimate services.
The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division began investigating the company and president Bernd Taubert after receiving a complaint about Federated’s practices. During a three-day trial this week, victims of the scheme testified Federated's mailings indicated money was supposedly "due" for "charges of registration." Prior to receiving the “invoices” from Federated, all of the victims had applied for trademark registrations or patents from legitimate government agencies, and they believed Federated’s mailings were associated with their applications.
According to the evidence, victims include businesses that have become household names, such as the Crocs shoe company, Sony Entertainment and the estate of Astrid Lundgren, the Swedish author of the "Pippi Longstocking" children's books. The Lundgren estate alone paid Federated $25,000 after getting mailings stating charges were due for trademarking the names of characters in the Longstocking books. The lawsuit stated Federated and Taubert received close to $2.6 million from the scheme, most of which was transferred to Swiss bank accounts. Authorities believe approximately one thousand companies made payments to Federated and Taubert.
The Attorney General's Office seeks full restitution for all victims, penalties of several million dollars and an order for the defendants' assets to be repatriated from foreign bank accounts. Leon County Chief Circuit Judge Charles A. Francis will rule on the relief sought by the state at a later date.