Scams, deceptive offers, and solicitations from third-party vendors are abundant in the world of trademarks.
Trademark owners who choose to register their trademarks through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) usually start receiving misleading correspondence through email or the U.S. Mail within days of filing a trademark application.
Once you file a trademark application with the USPTO, the application becomes a public record in a matter of days. All of your contact information listed on the trademark application is accessible to anyone who wants to view your trademark application.
There are companies who review all filings with the trademark office each day. They use software programs to gather information from trademark applications. These companies then start sending out emails and U.S. mail correspondence to the owners of the trademarks.
How to Spot Trademark Scams
The correspondence from these companies includes a wide variety of solicitations:
- Offering to record your trademarks in a private registry
- Invoices stating that you owe additional money for filing or maintenance fees
- Invoices charging fees for publication of your trademark in a catalogue
These solicitations come from a wide variety of entities in different countries:
- GLOPAT Global Patents & Trademarks (Bratislava, Slovak Republic)
- Intellectual Property Agency, Ltd. (London, U.K.)
- Patent and Trademark Office (Washington, D.C.)
- IPTR Registration of the International Trademark (Bron, Czech Republic)
- TM Collection (Szombathely, Hungary)
- TM-DB Register of Protected Trademarks (Minneapolis, MN)
The USPTO website actually lists more than seventy different companies with similar names from the US and around the world that send out these deceptive solicitations.
Many of these deceptive solicitations have invoices for fees like $1650 or $930. If you send these entities the money, you will not get it back.
If you receive any mail from these entities, you should immediately throw them away. They do not provide any legitimate service that will benefit your trademark registrations or your business.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office sends warnings with all of their Certificates of Registration that state:
Beware of Potentially Misleading Offers and Notices
All official correspondence about your registration will be from the “United States
Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and, if by email, from the domain “@uspto.gov.” Our email reminders will direct you to make the necessary filings and pay the associated fees online through TEAS, and will not request any fees by mail. Private companies not associated with the USPTO often use trademark application and registration information from our databases to mail or email trademark-related offers and notices. These offers and notices may include legal services, trademark monitoring services, recording trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and “registering” trademarks in a private registry. Most companies require “fees” to be paid.
These companies may have names similar to the USPTO. Their names may include the terms “United States,” “U.S.,” “Trademark,” “Patent,” “Registration,” “Office,” or “Agency.” Some companies attempt to make their offers and notices look like official government documents by using official government data publicly available from USPTO records.
Some tips on how to identify a trademark scam:
- Is the mail from a foreign country?
- Read the fine print. Does it state “this is not an invoice but a solicitation without an obligation to pay”?
- Does the mailing claim to be from or for an international publication?
- Are they claiming that there is an upcoming filing deadline and offering to provide a filing service for a fee?
- Is the mailing from someone other than the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia?
Protect Yourself by Working with a Trademark Lawyer
Misleading and deceptive solicitations are a good reason to have trademark applications filed and managed by an experienced trademark lawyer who can screen out these types of fraudulent mailings.
Often, I receive phone calls from clients who have received questionable mailings related to their trademark applications or registrations. I review the mailing and advise the client on the validity of the mailing.
Usually the client says they thought it was a trademark scam, but they wanted to make sure before they sent in payment. I wonder how many trademark owners fall for these scams and send in a payment.
Don’t get caught in a scam and give your hard-earned money away to scam artists.