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What to Do If There Are Unauthorized Changes to Your USPTO File

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently released a warning about a new scam targeting trademark applicants. According to this notice, unauthorized third parties have attempted to make changes to applicants’ files by using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Specifically, many of these unauthorized parties have filed Change of Correspondence Address requests with the USPTO to change the email address linked to the trademark application file. If successful, a scammer could change the email address attached to the application, and then receive confidential information about the trademark and the applicant. Fortunately, the USPTO says that only a small number of total applications and registrations have been impacted by this scheme. However, it’s important to be aware of how an unauthorized attempt to access your trademark file could impact you.

The USPTO believes that many of these unauthorized changes may be the result of fraudsters trying to register other companies’ trademarks on third-party brand registries. Doing so could potentially allow these unauthorized parties to sell their products under the trademark applicant’s brand name. Many companies use legitimate third-party brand registries, such as the Amazon Brand Registry, to conduct business online. In fact, e-commerce has become a huge gateway to an international community of customers. If your business sells to online customers, it’s important to protect your online brand by ensuring that unauthorized third parties haven’t fraudulently registered your brand already. Your trademark attorney can monitor your file so that you don’t have to spend valuable time away from your business.

Will the USPTO Alert Me to an Unauthorized Change?

Historically, the USPTO would communicate with trademark applicants solely by mail. With the development of the TEAS, trademark holders and applicants can now manage their files online. This system also allows companies to request correspondence through email, if that’s their preference. Of course, many businesses prefer to use email correspondence. However, as more and more trademark applicants and holders communicate with the USPTO through email, the more potential there is for an unauthorized party to attempt to high jack those communications. So, what can you do to protect your brand from scammers? And what should you do if your file has already been accessed by someone without your permission?

If someone has tried to make an unauthorized change to your trademark file, you will likely receive an email from the USPTO alerting you about the change. This email will specify what kind of change has been made to your file. If the USPTO does receive a request from a third party to change the email address on your file, the USPTO will send an email alert to the previous email address on file as well as to the person who made the new request. For example, if Bill Scammer tries to change your trademark file so that all future correspondence goes directly to him, you (or your trademark attorney) will receive an email alert to whichever email address was previously associated with your file. This alert provides you with an extra layer of security, so you can decide whether the requested change was fraudulent or not.

What Do I Do If Someone Tries to Change My File?

Of course, some requested changes to your trademark file may be totally legitimate. If you have a trademark attorney managing your application on your behalf, they may need to make changes to the correspondence address or other changes from time to time. But what can do you do if someone other than you or your lawyer is trying to access and change your trademark file? The USPTO recommends taking the following steps:

1. Confirm whether the change was authorized. As noted above, for some changes like changing your correspondence address, you’ll get an email alerting you to the requested change. Take a look at that message and see whether you recognize the new email address that will be associated with your file. If you were expecting a change (for example, if your attorney needs to list a new email address), confirm that the email is correct. If you were not expecting the requested change, you may need to report the alert as a scam. Remember, official emails from the USPTO will always come from the “@uspto.gov” domain!

2. Report any change you believe was unauthorized. The USPTO strongly encourages companies to report any unauthorized changes to their files directly to the agency. You can do so by forwarding the original “alert” email message to [email protected] Make sure to include the following information in your reporting email: your name, your phone number, your application serial number(s) and/or registration number(s), the date and time you received the alert message, and a brief explanation of your relationship to the named applicant/registrant of record.

3. After reporting unauthorized changes, you may need to file another Change of Correspondence Address request. The TEAS system may automatically process a change of email address request, even if it’s unauthorized. If someone has already made an unauthorized change to your file, you can request a change to correct your file. Depending on whether you have a trademark attorney, you may need to file a Change of Correspondence Address request, an Appointment and/or Change of Correspondence Address of Attorney/Domestic Representative request, a Request for Withdrawal as Attorney (after Power of Attorney Ends), or another type of correspondence form.

Protecting Your Company from Unauthorized Changes

In the digital age, it’s becoming harder and harder to fully prevent scammers from accessing your online data. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to protect your brand and your trademark! The best way to protect your trademark file is to call The Brand Protected® and speak with an experienced trademark attorney. We know the ins and outs of the trademark application system, and we use that knowledge to monitor and protect your trademark file. We understand that your time is your money. That’s why we offer personalized, one-on-one legal counseling to ensure that you are getting maximum value from our services. Click here to contact The Brand Protected® today and learn how to protect your business through the trademark process from start to finish.

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