Beware of trademark scam “from USPTO”

Once your trademark has been accepted, it enters the USPTO register, which is viewable by the general public. While this puts the public on notice that you own a particular mark, it is also a database that enterprising businesses (scammers) can use to collect fees from unsuspecting trademark owners. This is similar to the “business service offer” sent out to recently formed corporations and business entities. These advertisements use official-looking documents that solicit a service from the “United State Trademark Registration Office” to record the registered mark with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) database.  The service proposes to alert clients of confusingly similar goods that are entering the U.S. market and will remind participants of upcoming statutory deadlines that pertain to registered U.S. trademarks.

There are several issues with this scam. First, it confuses the mark owners by using “United States Trademark Registration Office.” This is NOT the USPTO. Many trademark owners receive the scam in the mail and believe that they owe another fee. Such is not the case with documents such as the one exemplified in this article.

Second, it combines a solicited service with information about actual statutory deadlines. True, you must file a Declaration of Use or Excusable Nonuse between the 5th and 6th years and between the 9th and 10th years after registration. However, information about the solicited service and the statutory deadlines are presented in a way that trick recipients into thinking that they need to pay for a required service. Someone who is not knowledgeable in U.S. Trademark Law (most trademarks owners are not and wisely use an attorney for assistance) could easily be confused between the advertised service and deadlines that are vital to the continued registration of their mark.

If you have hired an attorney to handle your trademark maintenance, you should not be receiving any correspondence of which the attorney is not already aware. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced trademark attorney about any correspondence you receive that requests filing information or paying a fee to confirm its validity.