Don’t be a Mark in a Trademark Scam – Signs of a ScamJune 18, 2020 – Legal Alerts
What are trademark scams?
Many scam artists attempt to solicit money from trademark owners by sending notices that appear to be authentic but are meant to mislead or fraudulently induce payment for unnecessary or nonexistent services. Unfortunately, because trademark filings are a matter of public record, many bad actors utilize the filing information to prey upon the owners by seeming legitimate. An example of a widely -known scam is shown below.
Example of a Scam trademark mailer received requesting money:
Who is behind the scams?
It’s hard to know who is behind the scams. They are usually private companies and individuals not affiliated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or any other official agency. They often use misleading, official-sounding company names with terms such as United States, trademark, office, agency, and services. We’ve included a list of known scammers in this article.
How do they carry out the scams?
Due to the public nature of trademark filings, scammers are able to obtain information regarding the trademark owner and the mark itself from the trademark registry. This information includes the trademark owner’s name, email, mailing address, details of the mark’s filing date, maintenance dates, and goods and services.
The scammers use this information to send solicitations and notices that often create a sense of urgency and lead the trademark owner to believe the status of the mark is at risk. Common types of solicitations include offers to assist with approaching renewals, maintenance filings, office actions, to publish the mark in a private database, and to hire the company as a watch service—always at a cost.
How to spot scams.
If you receive a solicitation or notice, first look at who sent it. For our clients, all fees are paid by Dinsmore & Shohl, and all invoices come directly from Dinsmore on Dinsmore letterhead. All official correspondence from the USPTO will be sent via email to whomever filed the trademark, meaning it will likely be sent directly to your trademark attorney. All USPTO correspondence will clearly state it is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office and will be sent via email. The email address will end in “.uspto.gov,” and the physical address will be in Alexandria, Virginia.
Scams often list the wrong deadline date for renewals and maintenance filings and charge much higher fees than the USPTO does. The fine print will likely contain language such as: “this is not an invoice but a solicitation without an obligation to pay,” “a private business that is not endorsed by or affiliated with the U.S. government,” or “this service is optional.” Other discrepancies often found in trademark scams include typos and grammatical errors.
What to do if you encounter a scam.
If you receive a scam mailing, throw it away, delete it, or forward it to your trademark attorney. Do not send any money or information. If you do, you may not be able to recover it. All payments (including all filing fees) will come from Dinsmore & Shohl on Dinsmore letterhead.
The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, but it can begin investigations and prosecutions based on widespread complaints about particular companies or business practices. This webpage lists recent cases that resulted in refunds, one of which is a patent scam case that garnered 5,503 refunds.
The FTC also has a webpage dedicated solely to helping people seek recourse against companies that either scammed or deceived them. This includes sample letters to send to the scammer and tips on how to file complaints. It also warns against recovery scams detailed on its website.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a form victims can fill out to report a scam as well. The BBB Scam Tracker has 36 reports filed in the U.S. regarding fake invoices or supplier bills pertaining to trademarks since February 2015. Some of the companies listed include the following names.
- World Trademark Register
- WTP Service
- Patent Trademark Bureau
- ITP Services
- Trademark Compliance Office
- U.S. Trademark Compliance Office
- Trademark Renewal Service
- International Patent & Trademark Index
These are known scams. Ignore any correspondence from these entities. There is a full list of known scams here.
Additional information can be found at: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/caution-misleading-notices
If you have any questions, please contact your Dinsmore attorney.