Unsolicited Offers for Trademark-Related Services in the United States
Brand owners beware! If you have ever filed a trademark application with your country’s trademark office, it is likely that you will be the target of companies that attempt to confuse brand owners into paying unnecessary fees.
Trademark filings are a matter of public record. Thus, anyone with an Internet connection and a minimal amount of training has access to the particulars of trademark applications and registrations. As a result, some companies try to trick trademark filers into paying fees for unnecessary services.
This is how the trick works. Armed with your trademark, name, and address and similar information for thousands of other trademark owners, these companies mass mail a very official-looking form requesting the payment of fees (usually an odd amount, such as $587.00) to “publish” or “register” your trademark. The services offered by these companies often are unnecessary and duplicate what the USPTO does for free. In other situations, the mailing may offer what might otherwise be a legitimate service (e.g., a trademark watch service), but may be intended to confuse the trademark owner into believing that the service is offered by an official government agency (e.g., by using a name, such as “USTPA,” that sounds like an official governmental body).
Entities reported to INTA that engage in this type of activity include:
- TMI Trademark Info Corporation, in Texas
- United States Trademark Protection Agency (USTPA), in Seattle, Washington
- Global Edition KFT
- Trademark Renewal Service, in Washington, D.C.
- Globus Edition S.L., in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
- Company for Economic Publications Ltd., in Austria
- Institute of Commerce for Industry, Trade, and Commerce, in Switzerland
- CPI (Company for Publications and Information) Anstalt, in Liechtenstein
- Société pour Publications et Information S.A.R.L., in Vienna, Austria
Beware that these entities are constantly changing their names and addresses, so this is not a comprehensive list.
How do I know what notices are legitimate?
Before paying any trademark-related fees, verify that the invoice is from an authorized entity. If the notice appears to be from a governmental entity, make sure it is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. No other governmental entity will contact you regarding your application. Of course, many of the companies that try to confuse trademark owners attempt to appear as “official” as possible. Note that the Patent and Trademark Office in the United States, and in virtually all other countries, does not write directly to the applicant if it is represented by local counsel. Accordingly, if you are represented by a lawyer or agent, pay particular attention to any unsolicited mail you may receive that purports to relate to your trademark. When in doubt, contact your trademark counsel about documents of questionable authenticity or merit that are related to your trademarks.