Owners of U.S. trademarks (applicants and registrants) routinely receive trademark-related solicitations by mail and/or email purporting to be official notices or advertisements from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requesting payment of fees. These are trademark scams and you need to familiarize yourself with them so you can protect yourself from spending money unnecessarily!
Do Not Trust Any of These Communications!
They are not official notices from the U.S government, but rather deceptive attempts from private companies to induce unwitting trademark owners to pay them fees to “help” them receive or maintain their mark.
They often use names that resemble the USPTO to give themselves an air of legitimacy. Unfortunately, many trademark applicants and registrants, including those represented by an attorney, have reported paying fees to these private companies.
Some of my clients have recently received correspondence from the following:
- Trademark Renewal Service in New York, NY
- Legal Force – Trademarkia in Mountain View, CA
- Trademark Compliance Center, Inc. in Alexandria VA
- Patent & Trademark Agency, LLC in New York, NY
Click on the image to the right to view an example trademark solicitation letter that the USPTO and INTA are warning people about.
You can check out the Learning Center to find more examples of trademark scams.
How do I Know What is Legitimate?
If you have hired legal counsel to handle your trademark work, the USPTO will communicate directly with your attorney, who will in turn, communicate directly with you. Only if you are representing yourself will the USPTO communicate directly with you.
All official correspondence – whether to you directly or via your attorney — will come from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA and any email communications will come from the domain “@uspto.gov.” If you receive an email from a non-.gov domain, including .com, .org, .us, or others, it is not official!
In response to this predatory practice, the USPTO has issued its own warning to trademark applicants and registrants. The International Trademark Association (INTA), the world’s largest network of trademark owners and professionals, has joined the USPTO and issued its own warning as well. I encourage you to read both warnings carefully.
How do I Protect Myself from Trademark Scams?
- Read the solicitation very carefully so you can properly identify the source of the communication.
- Confirm that it comes from the USPTO in Alexandria, VA or from an email address ending in “@uspto.gov.”
- Be aware of the official filing fees you will owe during the trademark process. The USPTO publishes its fee schedule on its website – you may reference it here.
- Ask for professional advice! Show the solicitation to your intellectual property attorney (make sure he or she is an intellectual property attorney) before making any payments.
- If you cannot get an attorney’s advice, contact the USPTO’s Trademark Assistance Center via phone (800-786-9199, option 1) or email at TrademarkAssistanceCenter@uspto.gov.
Trust your gut and double-check anything that is unexpected or seems suspicious. There are more trademark scams than you think. When in doubt, ask your intellectual property attorney!