Unsolicited Offers for Trademark-Related Services in the United States
Updated, June 2015
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 applicants 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 or email an official-looking form requesting the payment of fees (usually an odd amount, such as $587.00) to “publish” or “register” your trademark. The services they offer often are unnecessary or duplicate the services provided by the government trademark office. In other situations, the mailing may offer what might otherwise be a legitimate service (e.g., a trademark watch service), but under false pretenses (e.g., by using a name, such as “USTPA,” that sounds like an official government agency).
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) maintains a notice warning trademark owners to be wary of unsolicited offers that may have an official appearance. A number of entities that mail or email unsolicited offers are listed in the warning notice, along with examples of the offers they send to unsuspecting trademark owners. Be aware that this is not an exhaustive list, as the entities change their names from time to time and new entities emerge to engage in this practice.
See WARNING: Non-USPTO Solicitations That May Resemble Official USPTO Communications
How do I know which 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 government agency, make sure it is the government trademark office with which you filed your application (e.g., the USPTO). No other government 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 most government trademark offices do not write directly to an applicant that is represented by local counsel of record. Accordingly, if you are represented by an attorney 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 trademark before providing any financial or other sensitive or confidential information.