Avoid Fake Trademark Office Scams
Trademark owners receive notices from scammers purporting to be from the Trademark Office, claiming that fees are due to maintain their marks. Learn how to recognize and avoid these scams.
How does the scam work?The scammer obtains trademark owner contact information from the application and registration information that is part of the public record for the trademark. The scammer sends an official looking notice to the trademark owner, either by U.S. mail or by email. The notice states that fees are due to maintain the trademark. The unwitting trademark owner provides payment of the purported fees to the scammer, who then pockets the payment.
How do scammers fool their targets?Genuine notices come from the "United States Patent and Trademark Office", the USPTO. Scammers will use entity names that sound official, including terms such as “United States,” “U.S.,” “Trademark,” “Patent,” “Registration,” “Office,” or “Agency.”
• U.S. Patent and Trademark Bureau
• Trademark Compliance Center
• Patent and Trademark Agency
• Patent Trademark Register
• Patent and Trademark Office [note missing "United States"].
Communications from scammers will usually state a specific date upon which payment of the "fee" is due. Sometimes the date is derived from public information in the trademark's application and registration record. Often, the item for which the purported fee is due and/or the date on which the fee must be paid are entirely incorrect and are simply fabricated by the scammer.
Even when the item for which the "fee" is due is accurate, the amount required by the scammer may be many times the actual amount that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office charges for the item. A recent notice by one such scammer stated that $1,650 must be paid for renewal per class, whereas the actual USPTO fee for renewal is $300 per class if filed electronically.
Scammers use forms that appear to be official, with official-looking layouts. They may often purportedly cite statutory (U.S. Code or USC) and regulatory code (Code of Federal Regulation or CFR) sections to enhance the deception.
How does one recognize genuine USPTO notices?Genuine notices from the USPTO will always come from the "United States Patent and Trademark Office", in those exact words.
USPTO notices by U.S. mail will always originate from Alexandria, Virginia. Scammers often use addresses in places such as Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York which an unwary trademark owner might believe would be used by the USPTO. Note, though, that some scammers do use an Alexandria, Virginia address.
Notices by email will always be from the "@uspto.gov" domain.
What do you do if you receive a notice that fees are due for your mark?Check to see if the sender is actually the USPTO.
Check the actual deadlines for the payment of fees for your mark at the USPTO's Trademark Status and Document Retrieval site at http://tsdr.uspto.gov.
If you have any doubts or questions about a notice you have received, contact a trademark attorney for advice.
How do you report a fraudulent notice?Trademark owners can file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which has the power to investigate and prosecute scammers. In addition, state consumer protection authorities can go after parties that attempt to scam state residents. Trademark owners should not hesitate to report a suspected scam.