In the digital age, the ease of accessing public records is both a benefit and a bane. While transparency is beneficial, it unfortunately provides scammers with data to create compelling, albeit deceitful, solicitations. This blog aims to inform you about certain dishonest practices several of our clients have recently been exposed to in the context of their federal trademark registrations.
Disclaimer: This is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For advice specific to your situation, consult a qualified attorney.
Trademark Filings Are Public Record
All trademark filings submitted to the USPTO become a part of the public record and can be accessed by anyone. This is mandated by federal law and is done to enable individuals to easily search for and identify the existence of registered trademarks and pending applications. While this transparency is helpful to many, it also provides scammers with a wealth of information to exploit. Therefore, it is important to remain cautious and vigilant when receiving unsolicited communications related to trademarks.
Scammers will scour the USPTO database for upcoming renewal deadlines, publications, and registrations and use publicly available information about trademark owners, such as their names and mailing addresses, to create convincing solicitations. This correspondence is often timed to coincide with upcoming deadlines, publications, or registrations, and is distributed through various channels. These deceitful companies are not associated with the USPTO but often use names that resemble the federal agency.
Convincing Counterfeits and a Recent Example
Scam communications can be dangerously convincing, especially when designed to mimic official government documents containing details such as your trademark serial number, registration number, and other information harvested from USPTO records. Recently, several of our clients received mailings disguised as invoices for trademark fees and arrived when critical maintenance deadlines were approaching, or status updates had occurred for their applications. At first glance, they appeared legitimate, arriving on high-quality paper with fine print and a layout to look like an official request for filing fees. Fortunately, our clients consulted us before proceeding, and we were able to confirm that the correspondence was indeed a scam, preventing potential financial loss or added complications.
Below is an example of a recent solicitation received by our clients:For a clearer image, please click this link.
While this letter contains fine print claiming it “IS NOT A BILL” and “YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO PAY,” it is clearly intended to convince the recipient that it’s an invoice for required fees. After all, it references “your account information” and lists a due date for payment. However, this company has absolutely nothing to do with the USPTO.
How to Recognize Official Correspondence
To identify official correspondence related to your trademark filings, look for the sender to be the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, Virginia. If the correspondence arrives via email, it should be from the domain “@uspto.gov.” When using an attorney to manage your trademark applications, he or she should inform you of any official updates regarding your trademarks. Our firm, for example, will always keep you informed about any actions required for your trademarks.
What to Do if You Receive Suspicious Correspondence
If you receive suspicious correspondence, the safest action is to consult with your attorney before responding. Do not send money or provide financial information in response to these communications unless they are verified. If you encounter these misleading practices, consider reporting the situation to the appropriate authorities so you can prevent others from falling into these traps. The USPTO recommends filing a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission as a starting point. If the correspondence is from an organization not named on the USPTO list of known solicitations, the trademark office encourages you to email a copy with the mailing envelope to TMScams@uspto.gov.
Please visit the USPTO Website for additional information and examples of deceiving practices.
In an era where digital sophistication is constantly evolving, scammers are adeptly leveraging public information to deceive and mislead. Always exercise caution when confronted with unsolicited trademark-related communications. Your attorney is a crucial resource in these situations, and you should never hesitate to consult them if in doubt.
Cutler Law Firm, LLP is a full-service law firm based in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Interested in registering a trademark or need a consultation? Email our team to request a Trademark Intake Form or call (605) 335-4950 to speak with a trademark attorney.