On April 27, 2023, the US Patent and Trademark Office held an online webinar titled “Trademark scams: How to avoid them and what to do if you get fooled.” Various types of trademark scams were introduced. As a trademark attorney myself, I hear about trademark scams from my clients who send me scam letters for confirmation. I appreciate how vigilant my clients are and how my clients trust me enough to ask me first. For those who might not be aware of this risk, here are some ways to identify and avoid trademark scams:
- Be aware of emails/calls/letters disguised as the USPTO that request unreasonable fees and indicate urgent deadlines that require your immediate payment and actions. The emails/letters usually contain grammatical errors, false agency names, and incorrect contact info. A classic example can be found here: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/WTP-Trademark-Publication.pdf; More examples can be found here: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/protect/caution-misleading-notices
- If you are represented by an attorney to file the trademark application, the USPTO will only contact your attorney. Therefore, if a caller claims to be from the USPTO or an Examiner of your application, it’s a scam. You can verify if a caller is from the USPTO by checking this website: https://portal.uspto.gov/EmployeeSearch/
- If you receive an email from a sender which looks like the USPTO, make sure to check the email domain. The USPTO email address should end in “.gov” instead of “.org”;
- The USPTO does not provide services like trademark clearance search, reminders via texts, or setting up a USPTO.gov account on your behalf;
- If you decide to go through the application process by yourself, please familiarize yourself with the USPTO fees (https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule), the basic process (https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics), and trademark assistance center (https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/support-centers/trademark-assistance-center);
- If you would like to hire an attorney to assist with the application, you can ask for the attorney’s name, bar number, and which state the attorney is licensed in. You can always check with the state bar association to verify the info of a licensed attorney in that state.
The trademark application process is deemed straightforwardly simple by some people. Moreover, some agencies offer ridiculously low pricing for filing a trademark application (you may have heard about “$49 File A Trademark Online”). However, be careful when you are tricked into thinking that the trademark application is easy and cheap. Agencies are sanctioned by the USPTO because they “solicit parties interested in applying for a trademark registration by touting falsely low fees and timeframes to obtain registration, or would use deceptive practices to coerce their logo design customers into allowing them to file U.S. trademark applications on their customers’ behalf.” What’s worse, they even “send customers false, yet official-looking letters, bearing the actual seal of the USPTO, threatening customers with legal action if they failed to register their logos with the USPTO within a particular time period.” Applications filed by those agencies are terminated, and the impacted applicants have to start the application process all over.
Therefore, here is the last tip to avoid trademark scams: it’s always recommended to find a trademark lawyer to assist you with your trademark applications.
1 https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/TM-Sanctions-Order-Abtach-et-al.pdf visited on April 27, 2023