Your brand is critical to the success of your business and obtaining a federal trademark registration is an effective strategy for shielding your brand against infringement. When you register your trademark, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will publish your trademark registration along with some basic information about your trademark and your business. Opportunistic scammers may try to use this publicly available information to trick unwitting trademark owners into handing over money for various made-up services.
Several private companies have been targeting trademark owners by soliciting unnecessary services that require a large fee. These solicitations appear to resemble official correspondence from the USPTO and, often, include key words or phrases which are similar to what one would expect to see from the USPTO. By using official-sounding language, scammers hope to trick trademark owners into believing that the scam letter is an official USPTO letter. These scam letters often include publicly available information regarding the registered trademark, which is easily accessible through a quick search of the USPTO’s database. This information includes serial numbers, graphical representations, the issue date of your trademark, the name and address of your business, and even the name of your trademark attorney.
To help avoid being tricked into paying unnecessary fees, beware of mail and email correspondence that does not specifically come from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” having an address in Alexandria, Virginia or is sent to you via e-mail from a “@uspto.gov” domain name. Examples of some deceptive solicitation titles include:
o - Patent and Trademark Office (note: the official name of the USPTO is “United States Patent and Trademark Office”),
o - Patent and Trademark Agency,
o - WTP Trademark Publication, and
o - U.S. Trademark Compliance Office.
All of the above examples are sent to you by a scammer, rather than an official United States agency. A number of these deceptive companies will also have addresses from what could appear to be an important geographic location, such as Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C., and Miami.
It is important to note that if you used the assistance of an attorney to prepare and file for your trademark, the USPTO will correspond directly with your attorney. Your attorney will then relay the substance of the communication to you and instruct you on any required steps to ensure that your trademark registration stay current and enforceable. Your trademark attorney will advise you on how and when to pay any official government fees associated with your federal trademark registration.
In an effort to educate the public about these misleading notices, the USPTO has published a list of actual scam letters that trademark registrants and their attorney have reported to the USPTO. As a result of an increasing number of trademark scams, a number of foreign patent and trademark offices have issued similar statements regarding potential trademark scams, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Take-away: entrust your trademark registration to a competent trademark attorney and safely ignore scam letters sent by the third parties.