Trademark scams have been around for years. There are many companies running these hoaxes, despite crackdowns and criminal prosecutions. They send letters to trademark applicants saying that they require additional fees. And some people will send them hundreds of dollars. The above letter is an example that one of my clients received. This post will explain what you need to know about trademark scams if you file an application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
The U.S. Trademark Compliance Office
This U.S. Trademark Compliance Office is one of many trademark scams that has been sending these letters for a long time. They are even listed on the USPTO website as a company to avoid. In fact, that is the first thing that comes up for me when I search for “U.S. Trademark Compliance Office.” I certainly do not see a website for them.
Of course they have a very official-sounding name, like they work with the USPTO and Customs & Border Protection. In actuality (and stated in their letter) they are not affiliated with either agency. They claim to monitor your trademark for infringement and register your mark with Customs. However, that is simply not true. This letter is one of many many trademark scams out there. Let’s talk about how this whole system of fake companies operates.
How Trademark Scams Work
One thing that any scam needs is a lot of personal information. Most people are not going to fall for something that is an obvious fraud. However, if you have a lot of personal information, you only need a small fraction of people to fall for it to make it worth the time. And trademark scams have a huge source of personal information readily available: the USPTO database.
When you apply to register a trademark, your application is the opposite of confidential. You are posting information about your mark and yourself online for everyone to see, even if your application/registration goes abandoned. That information is mostly limited to some basic contact information, but that is all someone needs to take advantage. This is why I recommend that my clients use a business address as opposed to a home address in their trademark applications. Your application will most likely include a phone number and/or email, as well. These can be used to conduct large-scale trademark scams.
Next, the letter/email/phone call must seem official in order to successfully rip-off people. That is why they use official-sounding names, that largely sound like government organizations. They will also use information from your application. You might think the only way they would have that information is if they really are from a government agency with access to your records. Of course, that is not the case as anyone can look up your trademark application, serial or registration number, mark, products and/or services, etc. Once they find you and convince you that they are official, asking for additional government fees for whatever purpose is the easy part.
Avoiding Trademark Scams
So how do you avoid accidentally wasting money on trademark scams? Well, hiring a trademark attorney to file your application would be the easiest way. A trademark attorney will tell the USPTO to correspond with them directly, so you shouldn’t be contacted by anyone. And if you are, you can run it by your attorney if you want to make sure what you received is bogus.
Also, it helps to just be aware that these scams exist. Know that anyone can look up and tell you about your trademark application. That means that it will be harder for someone to trick you. Be wary of any organization that approaches you that is not the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. If the USPTO contacts you, they tend to do so by email where they will have an @uspto.gov email address. And their phone calls will typically come from Alexandria, VA (although that is easier to fake than the email).
I should mention that not all third-party letters about your trademark application will be scams. Some are solicitations for legitimate businesses. For example, if you receive an office action, you may be contacted by an attorney offering to help you respond. You may also receive offers to assist you in filing your trademark renewals. It is always good to be cautious when solicited in this manner because of the number of trademark scams out there, though.
Want To Avoid Potential Scams By Working With a Trademark Attorney?
If you want an experienced attorney to file your application and handle communications with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, please call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.