In the last few months, I’ve received several calls and e-mails from clients who want to know if they should pay an invoice that they received from a “Patent and Trademark Resource Center” or “Patent and Trademark Organization,” or the like. Toss these in the trash and don’t pay! Otherwise, you may become the next victim of a scam.
How does this happen?
All United States trademark applications become public records within one to two weeks after the application is filed. This means your name and contact information can be accessed by anyone searching the records of the US Trademark Office. You can check out your own record here: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/. Your name and contact information also is available for issued trademark registrations.
Unscrupulous individuals and private entities gather your contact information directly from the US Trademark Office and then send you fake or highly misleading invoices and notices. They have official sounding names, such as “Patent and Trademark Resource Center” or “Patent and Trademark Bureau” or “World Organization for Trademarks” or “International Patent & Trademark Agency.” The notices may warn you that there is an urgent upcoming deadline and that you must send them money right away in order to maintain your trademark rights (which is misleading). Or, the notices may offer you the opportunity to record your trademark with a private registry if you send them money right away (which is a scam). These are not valid government agencies, and you are not required to send them money for any reason.
The notices from these individuals and private entities often refer to a real upcoming deadline. They appear to be scheduled so that they are delivered to you few weeks or months before you would receive a notice directly from the US Trademark Office or your attorney.
The US Trademark Office issued a warning about these private entities, and maintains a list of known troublemakers: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/caution-misleading-notices. The list includes links displaying samples of the fake notices. It is difficult for the Federal Trade Commission to police these activities, although efforts are ongoing. In March 2017, the operators of a private company called the Trademark Compliance Center were convicted of money laundering in a trademark renewal scam.
What can we do?
All official correspondence from the US Trademark Office will be sent to your attorney of record. If you don’t have an attorney, look for e-mails that are sent from the domain “@uspto.gov.” Anything else is not coming from the true US Trademark Office. Always double-check with your attorney if you receive any confusing or suspicious notices.
Rogowski Law takes certain steps to protect clients from these scammers. When filing trademark applications, we omit our client’s personal email address and phone number so that it is more difficult for these private entities to contact you directly. That is why you have received these notices primarily by postal mail.