The USPTO warned that companies not affiliated with the USPTO were using the USPTO database to find and locate new trademark applicants and are sending out letters that resemble an official notice.
When a few of my trademark applicant clients called me and asked me if they should pay a "bill" they just received from the trademark office, I said "it was a scam solicitation" and my office provides any necessary services. I wonder how many people received a similar letter and paid it thinking they were paying an official bill.
I bet many big companies receive letters like this and it goes to their accounting department and gets paid. The companies sending out the scam letters must be making money off it otherwise they wouldn’t continue to send these letters out.
Is what they are doing illegal? Probably not. Supposedly they are providing the services which they tout in the letter. Each one of those services are services that a trademark applicant could possibly use. However does every trademark applicant need those services?
The bottom line it’s is a sleazy way to do business; sending out letters that confuse somebody to believe that it’s an official government invoice.
Here’s an example of letter that a trademark applicant received:The USPTO warning has examples of services which typical scam letters list, which so happen to coincide with the letter that I posted above:
- for legal services;
- for trademark monitoring services;
- to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and
- to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.
The USPTO indicates that the companies use names that resemble the USPTO name, including, for example, the terms "United States" or “U.S.”
The letter posted above clearly tries to confuse people by using the name "United States Trademark Registration Office."
The USPTO warning page further goes on to say:
Increasingly, some of the more unscrupulous companies attempt to make their solicitations mimic the look of official government documents rather than the look of a typical commercial or legal solicitation by emphasizing official government data like the USPTO application serial number, the registration number, the International Class(es), filing dates, and other information that is publicly available from USPTO records.
All official correspondence is from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”
I tried a Google search using the words "United States Trademark Registration Office" and mostly legitimate sites, particularly the actual website for United States Patent and Trademark Office came up on the first page of the Google search.
Obviously the name is used to confuse the people who receive this letter; it actually confused a Google search. I did find one article recently published by David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times where he reports about the USPTO notice and how these companies are "preying on the unwary with official looking letters."
I guess the bottom line is don’t just pay official looking bills. Understand that once you file a trademark application and your application is posted on the USPTO website you’ll be added to a mailing list and likely become a target of these solicitations. Before you pay anything to anyone: make sure you know what you are paying it for and who you are paying it to.