Trademark scams: Don’t let seeing become believing

| May 17, 2021 | Trademarks |

You have submitted your trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), careful to fill in every space for required information and to dot every “i” and cross every “T.”

Because the USPTO says it can take a year or more to find out if your application will result in registration, you’re prepared to wait patiently. However, a few days after filing, lo and behold, you find in your mailbox an “important notification regarding your federal trademark” from the Trademark Compliance Center.

A look inside

Inside the envelope, you find an official-looking document that has at the top your name, the date you filed your trademark application, a serial number, a primary code and an intern code (you don’t know what these codes might be, but they appear to be important) and a long section of dense, legalistic text under the heading “Intellectual Property Rights Recordation.”

The dense text quotes the Trademark Act and states that the “Trademark Compliance Center is a trademark registration and monitoring service to help you protect your intellectual property rights and your trademark from possible third party trademark infringement(s).”

There’s also a perfunctory notice that you owe $385 for a processing fee. (Here’s a copy of the document.)

Not everyone sees the same

Of course, you know from the title of this blog post that the Trademark Compliance Center’s letter was bogus, but would you have known if your mailbox or email inbox had contained their notice? Most people can spot thinly disguised frauds, but their act fooled some. The USPTO says that four years ago, “the operators of a private company—the Trademark Compliance Center—were convicted of money laundering in a trademark renewal scam.”

The USPTO urges those who have registered for trademarks, and those who seek to renew trademarks, to be aware of solicitations from companies with official-sounding names (often including words such as “trademark,” “agency,” “U.S.,” “registration,” etc.). They send out official-appearing documents that include publicly available information about your application or trademark, asking for payments to help meet deadlines (some real, some fictional), gain registration or renewal, protect IP and so on.

The USPTO says if you receive trademark-related documents in email or traditional mail that you’re unsure of, don’t act on the information before contacting your IP attorney for advice. If you don’t have a lawyer, check your trademark application or registration with the USPTO database.