Trademark Owners Beware: Scams on the Rise
Business scams such as false invoices, unordered products, and advance-fee fraud are an ongoing problem for companies of almost every size. And now trademark scams, which are particularly dangerous, are on the rise.
The first danger is posed by “trademark agencies” that offer supposedly low-cost trademark services, sometimes as part of branding services. While these may look promising, they are often worse than useless. Not only will they file bad applications, but they will also soak you for useless services or fake USPTO fees. In the worst case, you can lose your application and priority if the service provider is sanctioned. That’s what recently happened to three agencies offering logo design and “low-cost assistance” filing U.S. trademark applications, leaving 5,500 applicants who had trusted them with nothing to show for it but terminated applications.
The dangers don’t end when you receive your registration, even if you’re assisted by real trademark counsel. Almost every trademark registrant has received an “invoice” or “alert” from fraudsters offering international registration or warning them their trademark is about to expire. These scams come from all over the world, from crooks with a variety of official-sounding names such as the “Patent and Trademark Agency” of New York, the “Patent and Trademark Office” of Washington State, the “World Trademark Register” of Washington D.C., “GLOPAT” of Slovakia, and the “World Patent & Trademark Agency” of the Czech Republic. Both the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization maintain updated lists of these dangerous companies here and here. These scammers send their solicitations directly to registrants, even when they are represented by trademark counsel, which the USPTO will not do.
Recently, scammers in the U.S. have advanced from sending mail to calling applicants and registrants directly, often “spoofing” their phone number so they appear to be calling from the USPTO. The scammers will often try to get payment or personal information over the phone, which they can then use to steal money or your identity. As pointed out by the USPTO, no examiner or USPTO employee will ask for payment information over the phone.
When you receive mail, email, or a phone call from someone regarding your trademark application or registration, you can always check what they say by looking at the status page for your application or registration at https://tsdr.uspto.gov/. But the best protection against getting scammed is to consult with a trademark attorney; if you are represented by an attorney, the USPTO will never contact you directly, and you can check with your attorney whenever you receive an email, mail, or telephone call about your trademark application or registration.
Whether you’re thinking of registering your trademark or you have questions about a registration you already have, the Intellectual Property attorneys at Norris McLaughlin, P.A., are here to help.