Numerous private companies are masquerading as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in an effort to trick applicants and registrants into paying fees or agreeing to unauthorized services. These scams have been increasing, and the USPTO has warned to be on the lookout for suspicious messages or offers. Find out what USPTO scams are and how you can spot them.
| What are USPTO Solicitations?
This specific type of scam can be categorized as a notice involving your trademark or an offer for trademark-related services. The USPTO databases are open to the public, and businesses use this information to send solicitations. Naturally, with access to specific information regarding trademark applications and registrant data, these solicitations can be very convincing.
Some of these scams may come in the form of notices requesting additional or inflated fees. While others offer services, only trademark attorneys are authorized to perform. For example, a solicitation may state your trademark is up for renewal and will cost $1000 in filing fees. When in reality, the USPTO filing fees are under $600. The USPTO has clarified that they do not support or endorse these solicitations and that no trademark applicants or current registrants are required to use these private companies for official trademark purposes.
| How to Identify a Scam
Some scams can look deceptively legitimate, so the USPTO has issued guidance on identifying official versus misleading correspondence. Anything you receive via mail will be from Alexandria, Virginia, and will list the sender as the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Official trademark emails must include a domain name ending in @uspto.gov. Typically, the USPTO will email renewal notices.
It’s essential to read every notice or offer you receive carefully to ensure it is safe to respond. Companies often attempt to impersonate official government agencies with spoofed telephone numbers. Others use recognizable words in their name to give the appearance of legitimacy.
| How to Handle Scam USPTO Communication
The USPTO cannot help you attempt to receive a refund or reimbursement from the solicitation scams, so it is crucial that you refrain from responding to or engaging with these businesses. If you receive a notice, email, or letter that you suspect is a scam, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Notifying the FTC about the suspicious activity will allow them to investigate and address potentially widespread issues.
Your local Attorney General’s office typically has a consumer protection division where state residents can file complaints. You can also contact the USPTO directly to verify the legitimacy of any correspondence you receive or to provide notification of a scam solicitation.
Many of the services these scam businesses may even look like they come from a law firm. If you need legal assistance with your trademark application or need trademark monitoring services, contact EmergeCounsel for a free consultation today. If you are already our client, please reach out if you have any questions about a potential scam you received.