The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued an alert in September 2020 regarding a new email scam.
Email messages are showing up in trademark owners’ inboxes that appear to be from USPTO but are actually from third parties. Be aware that any correspondence appearing to be from this government agency may be fraudulent and pay careful attention.
Learn why this digital scam may be surfacing now, key indicators that the email you received could be fraudulent, and steps trademark holders should take if they receive one.
New Rule for All Federal Trademark Participants
In early 2020, a new rule was issued for all trademark participants, including applicants, registrants, and other Trademark Trial and Appeal Board participants. It requires each participating party to provide an email address to round out their contact information.
Previously, USPTO’s communication policy outlined that all correspondence be sent to one representative party only — either the attorney of record or the direct trademark owner or proceedings participant only when they have not retained legal counsel.
The USPTO says this small update better ensures all official notices and correspondence reaches every participant, which would effectively avoid any issues with the proper party receiving the communication.
Increase in Reports of Fraudulent Email
Unfortunately, following the change, there has been an uptick reported in emails that recipients believe to originate from USPTO but are instead sent by third parties as part of a fraud scheme.
If you receive an email that seems to come from the Patent Office, look out for the following signs of fraud.
Telltale Signs of Fraudulent Correspondence
So far, scam messages have contained one or more of the following that were later confirmed to be fraudulent:
- Email address is off by one letter or appears to come from a no-reply sender. Emails from the USPTO will always end in “uspto.gov.”
- False claims of a new USPTO policy that requires any kind of secondary registration. Often the email will include the term “client.” Emails have also said there is a penalty for non-compliance.
- Some have provided inaccurate filing information — incorrect fees, for instance.
Protecting Yourself from USPTO Scam Emails
If you have received an unexpected email directly from the USPTO recently and have questions regarding its authenticity, reach out to the Marks Gray intellectual property team for guidance.
In the meantime, carefully review every email that appears to come from USPTO. Triple-check that the email actually came from the “uspto.gov” domain name. And ensure that the information is consistent with the USPTO website and any documentation your attorney has previously provided.