Trademark scammers abound in the marketplace. Their aim: to defraud legitimate trademark owners who have taken the time to register their trademarks with the USPTO.
I have warned clients and potential clients for years about these scams. Recently, one scammer was actually caught and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina.
What the Scam Was and What Happened After the Scammer Was Caught
Viktors Suhorukovs defrauded approximately 2,900 trademark registration owners over a period of three years. He operated two businesses in different cities: Patent and Trademark Office, LLC in Washington, D.C., and Patent and Trademark Bureau, LLC in New York.
Suhorukovs’s scheme involved sending fraudulent renewal notices to trademark registration owners. The fake notices were stamped with “Patent and Trademark Office, LLC” or “Patent and Trademark Bureau, LLC” at the top.
The similarity of the names to the USPTO led unknowing trademark owners to believe that the renewal notices were legit. The papers even included incorrect expiration dates — to create a false sense of immediacy — and a QR code that connected recipients to the official USPTO website. Trademark registration owners were directed to sign and return the “notice.”
After the trademark registration owner did so, Suhorukovs would send them an invoice charging exorbitant prices for an alleged renewal of the registration. He would tell them that he would complete the registration renewal with the USPTO.
To be clear, none of the trademark registrations mentioned were up for renewal. Suhorukovs pocketed the money. In addition to the illegality of sending these notices, Suhorukovs could not lawfully renew the trademark registrations if he had tried. He is not a licensed U.S. attorney.
The federal prosecution of Suhorukovs included charges of mail fraud. Ultimately, he pled guilty in January 2021, and was later sentenced to 52 months in federal prison and 24 months of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay over $4.5 million dollars in restitution.
Suhorukovs’ Scam Is Just One of Many — Be Wary!
Many scam artists prey on trademark registration owners. Since the USPTO database is a public record, anyone can access the database to see who owns trademark registrations. Highly sophisticated scammers are known to cull through it to send these fraudulent notices and invoices to trademark registration owners. It happens all the time.
To avoid these problems as a trademark registration owner, it is best to work with an intellectual property lawyer to file trademark applications. They will help you manage trademark registrations — and screen out deceptive alerts and invoices from scammers.