20 Mar Debunked: Correspondence From The United States Patent and Trademark Office
Not all of the correspondence you receive concerning your trademark is legitimately sent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Many individuals and businesses that have applied for trademark protection with the USPTO have received fraudulent solicitations, which in fact are not legitimate communications from the USPTO. People who are with the procedures of the USPTO, or those individuals who are not working with a trademark lawyer, can easily be misled by unscrupulous companies. Although the USPTO has gone to great lengths to put a stop to solicitations from companies making false promises to provide trademark protection and recordation, there are still private companies out there focused on deceiving trademark applicants and registrants.
The solicitations are intended to look like official USPTO correspondences. The appearance of the communication often confuses and defrauds USPTO customers out of money. A few examples include:
- These companies try to trick trademark applicants and holders into purchasing services they do not need, or services that may not even be real. These services could include:
- Legal services
- Trademark monitoring services
- Trademark recording services
- Registration of a trademark into a database maintained by a private company
- Sometimes the solicitations are meant to trick trademark applicants into paying “required fees” to an entity other than the USPTO.
- Many solicitations report that a deadline is approaching and that the recipient of the solicitation must act soon in order to preserve their trademark rights.
- Some solicitations indicate that the recipient has missed payment of a required fee and urge recipients to pay the allegedly overdue fee by a set date or risk loss of their trademark registration or rights.
What To Watch Out For
There are dozens of private companies that have been identified as sending out these confusing and fraudulent solicitations. These often falsely appear to be sent from the USPTO or another government agency with a confusingly similar sounding name. As such, the solicitations might resemble official USPTO communications, and can include names and symbols that look very similar to those used by the USPTO. They often appear to be official government documents that contain USPTO information, such as a trademark application number, filing date, classifications for the trademark and registration number. This information is made public by the USPTO, and companies use this information to trick unsuspecting trademark holders.
Spotting the Real Deal
So how is one supposed to know whether a communication is legitimately from the USPTO or not? Anything legitimately sent by mail from the USPTO will be a labeled as being sent from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” and will be sent from Alexandria, Virginia, where the USPTO’s central office is located. Legitimate email correspondences are always sent from an email address ending in “@uspto.gov”. In addition, if you have a lawyer handling your trademark, correspondence will be sent to them as well. Therefore, representing counsel will be able to filter the legitimate notices on your behalf.
If you receive a suspicious solicitation or communication and you are uncertain of the true origination of the communication, you can always consult with an experienced trademark lawyer who can help determine the authenticity of the solicitation.