TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Mass mailings sent out by a Florida company that appeared to be invoices were a violation of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, a Tallahassee judge has ruled.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum had filed a lawsuit against Federated Institute for Patent and Trademark Registry and Bernd Taubert alleging hundreds of companies made payments to the company under the mistaken belief that they were being billed for legitimate services.
At trial, victims of Federated's scheme testified that the company's mailings stated that money was "due" for "charges of registration." Before receiving the deceptive letters from Federated, the victims had all applied for trademark registrations or patents from legitimate government agents. The victims stated that they believed the mailings were associated with their applications.
Victims of Federated's scheme, according to evidence presented at the three day trial, include the Crocs shoe company, Sony Entertainment and the estate of the Swedish author of the "Pippi Longstocking" children's books, Astrid Lundgren.
Lundgren's estate along paid $25,000 to Federated after mailings were received that stated charges were due for trademarking the names of characters in the Longstocking books.
Federated and Taubert, according to the lawsuit, received approximately $2.6 million from the scheme. The majority of that money was then transferred to Swiss bank accounts, it is alleged. Authorities believe as many as 1,000 companies made payments to Federated and Taubert.
McCollum is seeking full restitution on behalf of all victims of the invoice scheme as well as penalties of several million dollar and an order for the repatriation of the defendants' assets from foreign bank accounts. A ruling on the relief will be made by Leon County Chief Circuit Judge Charles A. Francis at a later date.