When you receive a letter saying that your trademark is up for renewal or “ready” for international registration, you might be tempted to simply follow the instructions contained within the notice and pay the fee. Unfortunately, assuming the letter is authentic (which is to say, from the USPTO or an official Gov. body) is a mistake and can be a costly one at that. Our trademark attorneys frequently receive scanned solicitation PDFs from our clients asking to verify the authenticity of the notices and confirm whether or not they need to address them.
Undoubtedly, the number of illegitimate solicitation letters regarding trademark services is on the rise. Trademark renewal scams use public information on the USPTO’s online register to craft deceptively formatted letters or emails aiming to take advantage of trademark owners.
These traps phishing for money and information are becoming more and more difficult to avoid, but there are ways to authenticate the document if you fear you’re at risk.
WHAT QUALIFIES AS A TRADEMARK SOLICITATION/SCAM?
Most trademark “Solicitations”, or Scams, provide the trademark applicant or even registrant with a notice of an upcoming filing deadline along with a fee schedule of what it will take to satisfy these deadline. While trademark applications do require certain actions affirmative actions in the form of renewals and perhaps office action response, these letters are being sent by private companies rather than from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
HOW TO SPOT A FAKE
Check the Source – Official trademark correspondence will almost always be sent to you through the attorney of record on your trademark and in certain rare instances, from the USPTO office directly. Carefully check and examine the letterhead and format of the document. Although it may look authentic, and even contain accurate information about the trademark or have the correct accredited domain name, it can still be fake. All letters soliciting payments for trademark-related services from third parties are completely unauthorized and you are not obligated to fulfill their requests or “suggestions”. Receiving correspondence about your trademark renewal directly may very well be a good indication of a scam. In general, if you have identified a potential risk, the best course of action is to reach out to the attorney of record directly so that they can verify the source of the inquiry (if you have received a trademark office action, the attorney of record will be listed at the bottom of the document). If you have identified a potential scam, kindly notify the USPTO by sending them an email directly at email@example.com.
Look for Fake Addresses – Email or physical correspondence from fraudulent collection services may include fake web addresses or mailing addresses. You can distinguish between a real email, which will contain the “@uspto.gov” domain. Legitimate physical addresses are the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. “ uspto.gov” Is the only website hosted by the USPTO, any other site affiliated with the letter, or another address (especially an international address), indicates a scam. The trademark assistance center is always available to provide confirmation about the nature of the solicitation email and can be reached by going to the trademark section of the USPTO website.
Abide by the Renewal Timeline – When you received the letter is as important to authenticating it as its contents and if it arrives out of sync with the strict USPTO trademark renewal timeline, this is an immediate indication of fraud. Your first trademark renewal is due five years after registration. The next renewal is between the nine and ten years after the registration. Then the trademark is renewed every ten years. If you are receiving solicitations inconsistent with this timeframe, you should be suspicious of the source. A more in-depth timeline can be found on the official uspto.gov page
Be Suspicious – Falling for a potential trademark scam can cost you thousands of dollars so please be vigilant. It’s important to keep in mind that trademarks have a variety of potential issues that need to be addressed including filing Statements of Use, responding to office actions, and filing the appropriate documentation for Renewals. If you receive any other suspect correspondence about the trademarks you own, it’s important to take action. Confirm that any letter is official with your attorney before proceeding.
CONTACT YOUR TRADEMARK ATTORNEY
The best course of action if you are ever confused about the validity of a letter or email regarding your trademark renewals is to authenticate them with your trademark attorney. Our trademark attorneys work with many companies in both the strategy and execution of the protection of their intellectual property and if you have received a solicitation notice in regards to your pending or registered trademark, please contact us for a free consultation.