With increasing frequency, scam artists are targeting trademark registrants with suspicious-looking “snail mail” asking the registrant to send “renewal fees” to avoid abandonment of their trademark registration. These notices look at least somewhat legitimate because they purport to be from official-looking entities and usually contain accurate trademark information. Scammers can easily create these official-looking notices because trademark records are freely available to anyone with access to the internet. Armed with this easily accessible public information, scammers can time their solicitations to coincide with actual deadlines to increase the appearance of legitimacy.
For example, scammers often target trademark owners just prior to their actual trademark renewal. By doing so, the scammer gets to the trademark owner before anyone legitimate does (like the owner’s attorney or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)). Much of the information in the scam solicitation is true so some trademark owners fall for the scam and send their money to the scam artist. Unfortunately, this money doesn’t actually go to the USPTO, and the trademark owner will still have to actually renew their mark a few months later in order to maintain their trademark registration.
The USPTO has collected some examples of these solicitations and posted them on their website. Below are links to a handful of examples:
- Patent and Trademark Organization (New York, NY)
- Trademark and Patent Office (Los Angeles, CA)
- Trademark Compliance Center (Washington, DC)
- Trademark Renewal Service (New York, NY)
- Patent & Trademark Office (New York, NY)
How to Avoid Being Scammed
If you get a letter regarding an upcoming trademark renewal, and it didn’t come from your lawyer, here are our recommendations to avoid being the victim of one of these scammers:
1. Check the status of your registered trademark using your trademark registration number and the trademark database. (If you don’t know your registration number, find it by using TESS.) Then click on the “maintenance” tab to find out when your renewal window opens. It should look something like this:
If the “earliest date” is still off in the future, you are probably being scammed. The USPTO does not send out its courtesy reminders until the “earliest date” occurs. (In the above example, if you receive your solicitation prior to August 26, 2019 you are probably being scammed).
2. Be very skeptical of any communication not from your attorney or the USPTO. Any communication from the USPTO will come from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, Virginia, and all emails will be from the domain “@uspto.gov.”
3. Don’t get tricked by names that sound similar to the USPTO (e.g., see those listed above).
4. Only send money to your attorney or by filing directly with the USPTO and paying directly at the uspto.gov domain.
5. If you receive a solicitation that looks suspicious, call your trademark attorney or the USPTO.
6. Watch the USTPO’s informational video on the trademark scams here.
7. Check the USPTO’s webpage for more information.
If you need more information about filing or maintaining a trademark, please send us a message. Our attorneys have over 125 years of combined experience and are licensed in Arizona, Connecticut, and New York. We can handle federal intellectual property matters in any U.S. state and assist with international matters. For even more information, sure to connect with us on Facebook.
Post by patent attorney Joseph Meaney, edited by social media attorney Ruth Carter.