Trademark Scams: What to Watch For

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When you file a US trademark registration application in Michigan or elsewhere, it is highly likely that you will receive at least 1 trademark-related solicitation following your filing.

Some of the private companies sending letters and emails to the addresses that you listed in your publicly-viewable trademark registration application may be legitimate, offering services that could possibly be useful to those applicants filing without the assistance of a licensed Michigan trademark lawyer.

However, the vast majority of such solicitations will represent some level of scam. At the very least, most of these solicitations are firmly in the “unnecessary” category.

 The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a Scam Alert to inform trademark applicants of the danger posted by these fraudulent communications.

This Article will review the features of the most common trademark scam solicitations you are likely to receive after filing your trademark registration application.

Staying alert to these indications that a solicitation or communication you’ve received may be a trademark scam will ensure that you are not taken advantage in your quest for brand protection.

Trademark Scams Hint #1: Did Not Come from Your Trademark Lawyer or the USPTO

If you receive an email or postal mail related to your trademark registration application that did not originate with either the USPTO or your trademark lawyer, it may be a trademark scam.

A number of well-known trademark scammers use addresses in or around Washington, DC or Virginia (where the US Trademark Office is located) to appear legitimate.

Further, it is important not to be deceived by the use of names or terms such as “U.S.” or “Government” or “Agency” or other such verbiage in the sender’s return label or letterhead name. Anyone can write anything on letterhead and mail it out, at the end of the day.

A notable exception to this cautionary note would be a certified or even first-class postal mailing from a trademark lawyer with a cease and desist or other such demand. If anything is being delivered by way of a process server or certified mail with signature-receipt requirement, it is usually wise to accept the delivery so that you can see who is suing you and why.

Trademark Scams Hint #2: Asking for Personal Information or Money

If you receive anything that asks you reply with your credit card, Social Security, or other personally identifiable information, it is a scam.

If it asks you to fill out a form and return it with a check, it is a scam.

The USPTO will not bill you for any filing or other fee by mail or email.

You never need to respond to any “official notice” that comes from any source other than the USPTO, if even then.

Trademark Scams Hint #3: Referencing Inaccurate Deadline Dates

If you receive a communication alerting you to an impending deadline that is inaccurate or just plain wrong, it is probably a scam.

If you just filed your trademark registration application or just registered your trademark, you likely don’t have a deadline impending of any sort. Any mailing or email received requesting that you send a check to ensure that you don’t miss your deadline is fraudulent.

If you have filed a trademark registration application on your own and have indeed received an Office Action refusal from your USPTO Examiner, you do indeed have a deadline for responding to the Office Action. However, your response will in no case require that you send a check by mail or provide any personal information in response to any email or mailing that you receive.

USPTO Examiners do discuss Office Action resolution by email—but it will clearly be a USPTO “.gov” email address.

Again, no communication from the USPTO will be requesting the direct payment of money from you.

What You Can Do About Trademark Scams

The first thing you should do when receiving a trademark scam communication is to discuss it with your Michigan trademark attorney. Your trademark lawyer will be able to advise you as to any level of legitimacy included in the communication, the accuracy of any dates or claims, or any other aspect of the communication.

If it’s a scam, your trademark attorney will be able to tell you that in one quick email reply.

You can, as advised by the USPTO, also file a complaint with the FTC or state consumer protection authorities.

In Michigan, consumer fraud is reported to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office allows consumer protection complaints to be filed online. Identity theft, illegal robocalls, and financial services fraud, among other forms of fraud, are all within the purview of the State AG’s office.

The Bottom Line: How to Avoid Trademark Scams in the First Place

The best way to avoid trademark scams in the first place is to retain an experienced Michigan trademark lawyer to assist you with your trademark registration application or renewal filing.

A trademark attorney will be, once retained, immediately positioned to draft your trademark registration application carefully, avoiding whenever possible the use of your personal home address or personal telephone number or email addresses.

A trademark lawyer will be able to tell you whether or not a communication you’ve received is a trademark scam or is legitimate.

The bottom line is that, without professional legal assistance, you may never feel fully confident that a solicitation or other communication received is—or is not—a trademark scam.

Working a Michigan trademark lawyer means that you will always, throughout not only your trademark registration process but for the life of your ownership and use of the trademark, have a knowledgeable source of advice.

Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting craft brewers, vintners, distillers, and others in all industries with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.

We offer virtual consultations, premium customer service, and the expertise you need to maximize your odds of trademark registration success.

Click the “Register Your Trademark” button below to schedule your initial consultation and to begin your brand protection journey.

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