The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a warning to trademark owners about an ongoing email scam involving correspondence that purports to be from the USPTO. While some of the emails appear to originate from the USPTO domain (@uspto.gov), they are fraudulent and do not come from the USPTO.
Proliferation of Trademark Scams
Trademarks scams have proliferated in large part because information about trademark registrants is publicly available online. Scammers use this information, along with official intellectual property terms, to create official-looking documents intended to trick individuals and companies into paying erroneous fees and/or signing up for services that they don’t need.
To increase the appearance of legitimacy, fraudsters typically use official-sounding names that resemble the USPTO, by including the terms "United States," “U.S.,” "Trademark," "Patent," "Registration," "Office," or "Agency." One prominently displays the word “Washington”, where, in small type, it is seen that its address is in Washington state, not in Washington, D. C. Companies also attempt to make their solicitations mimic the look and format of official government documents.
While the specific tactics may vary, the intent of the solicitations is to convince the recipient to pay for services. Businesses may be asked to sign up for legal services; trademark monitoring services; recordation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and registration with the companies’ own private trademark registry. While some companies may appear to offer legitimate services, many attempt to enroll trademark owners in completely fraudulent programs, such as private trademark registries.
USPTO’s Latest Trademark Alert
On September 10, 2020, the USPTO issued a Trademark Alert regarding a new fraudulent email scam targeting trademark owners. According to the USPTO, owners of U.S. trademark applications and registrations are receiving fraudulent emails that appear to originate from the USPTO domain, @uspto.gov. However, these emails are a scam and do not come from the USPTO.
The USPTO advises trademark owners to beware that these messages:
- Spoof the USPTO email address (e.g., email@example.com).
- Falsely claim that the USPTO has a new policy and that there is a “penalty” for not complying.
- Provide incorrect USPTO trademark filing information (e.g., incorrect fee information).
What to Do if You Receive a Fraudulent Trademark Email
If you registered your trademark using an attorney or are represented by counsel in legal proceedings involving your trademark, communications will generally be sent directly to your attorney. Therefore, it is safe to assume that any correspondence directed to yourself purporting to be from the USPTO is fraudulent.
In any event, we encourage trademark owners who receive email correspondence that appears to come from the USPTO to investigate it thoroughly before taking any action. If you receive any communication you believe is from the USPTO, you should send it to your counsel to verify its legitimacy.
If you receive a trademark-related offer or notice that you believe is misleading, the USPTO encourages filing a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, it may begin investigations and prosecutions based on widespread complaints about particular companies or business practices.
The USPTO also keeps a running list of entities that are known to send misleading offers and other correspondence to trademark owners. The USPTO’s solicitations webpage contains a list of examples of solicitations from entities unaffiliated with the USPTO, including known scams, potentially misleading offers and notices, and other non-USPTO solicitations about which they have received inquiries or complaints.
Fraudulent communications spoofing the USPTO are extremely common. Because the scams also continue to evolve and proliferate, it is important to remain vigilant. We encourage you to verify the authenticity of any communication regarding your intellectual property prior to responding. Scarinci Hollenbeck’s trademark attorneys are available to assist with any concerns or questions you may have.
If you have questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, David Einhorn, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.