New U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Rule Is Likely To Increase Trademark Fee Scams
Businesses that own trademark registrations or pending applications have undoubtedly received letters in the mail from scammers, designed to look like official government notices and containing bogus invoices for fees. Unfortunately, we now have reason to anticipate a new flood of scams that will arrive in email inboxes. Beginning February 15, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will require that trademark applicants and registrants include their email addresses with any new trademark applications, registration renewals, and other filings in connection with an application or registration. The email addresses of the trademark owners will be included in the USPTO’s publicly accessible databases and therefore subject to scraping by scammers.
In order to protect your business from trademark fee scams, it will be important to keep the following in mind:
- The USPTO does not issue invoices for fees. So, if you receive a notice that includes an invoice or request for payment, whether by email or postal mail, it is a scam.
- If an attorney is acting on your behalf before the USPTO, the USPTO will only correspond with the attorney. So, if you receive a notice purporting to be from a government trademark agency, it is a scam. There is an exception to this: when your registration enters its sixth year, and at the beginning of each 10-year period, the USPTO will send a courtesy reminder about the upcoming deadline to file required post-registration filings. But these notices will not contain an invoice
- If you are ever in doubt about the legitimacy of a notice you receive related to your trademark, reach out to your attorney to confirm.
ABOUT LAURA WINSTON
Laura J. Winston is a principal in the firm’s intellectual property group. Ms. Winston focuses her law practice primarily in the areas of trademarks, copyrights and the internet, representing a broad range of clients from individual business owners and small startup ventures to established Fortune 500 and publicly-traded companies both domestically and abroad. Ms. Winston practiced both at large firms and specialized intellectual property firms, before co-founding an intellectual property boutique firm. Her industry experience covers various industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and medical devices, print and online publishing, computer-related goods and services, alternative energy, and travel and transportation.
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