Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season to brush up on tips for identifying whether you have received a fraudulent trademark solicitation. This article will provide an overview of recent trends that we are seeing in trademark scam solicitations and provide helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim of these sophisticated scams.
Recently, there has been a rise in trademark scam solicitations sent from private companies targeting new trademark applicants, as well as owners of registered trademarks. These private companies are not affiliated with the U.S. government or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).
How the Scam Works
As Trademark Office records are publicly accessible, the perpetrators of these sophisticated scams use trademark application and registration information from USPTO databases to send out fraudulent solicitations by mail or email, or to contact trademark owners by phone or text message. These notices commonly appear to be from an official government agency and request your “urgent” action. They also typically request payment of substantial fees for trademark-related services, including directory listing services, monitoring services, or renewals.
What to Look For
Trademark scam solicitations commonly include these potential red flags:
- Unsolicited Communications. Any official notices will be forwarded by the USPTO directly to our office. You should not receive any unsolicited communications from the Trademark Office.
- These scams typically indicate a false sense of urgency to take immediate action.
- Excessive Fees. These scams typically include a request for excessive fees or payment for unnecessary services.
- Official-Looking Notices. These scams may look like government-issued notices, invoices, or emails. The document may include a false attorney name or contact information. The company names may even look and sound official, such as “Patent & Trademark Agency,” “Patent and Trademark Bureau,” or “U.S. Trademark Compliance Office.” All official correspondence should be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, Virginia, and all emails will be from the official government domain name “@uspto.gov.”
- Typographical or Grammatical Errors. Review all communications carefully. These scams commonly include clear typographical or grammatical errors and references to nonexistent laws, regulations, or procedures.
Scammers are also now using a tactic called “spoofing” to hack caller ID information and impersonate real USPTO employees and phone numbers (for example, trademark examining attorneys). You should never receive a phone call or text message from the Trademark Office. For more information, please see the USPTO’s website regarding spoofed phone calls: USPTO: Spoofed calls that impersonate the USPTO.
What to Do
If you receive what appears to be an official notice regarding your pending trademark application or existing trademark registration, we recommend that you forward it to our office immediately so that we can determine whether it is genuine or a scam.
- Remember: As a client of our firm, any communications regarding your trademark application or registration should come directly from our office.
If you receive a phone call or text message falsely claiming to be from the USPTO or other agency, hang up immediately and do not respond. Do not give anyone your personal information or payment information over the phone or via text.
- Best Practice: To avoid unsolicited phone calls and text messages, we recommend that applicants refrain from providing their phone number when submitting trademark applications.
For a listing of current trademark-related scams identified by the USPTO, please visit the USPTO website: Caution: Scam alert. The World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) also maintains a list of current scam solicitations concerning international applications and registrations: WIPO: Warning.
While the USPTO has taken certain steps to combat the rise in fraudulent trademark solicitations, the best way to avoid falling prey to these scams is to remain vigilant and review any communications you receive with caution. At Hovey Williams LLP, we are always available to review any communications you receive regarding your trademark applications or registrations. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about trademark-related solicitations, or if you believe you have been a target of one of these scams.