By: Mark R. Malek
This is an issue that has driven me nuts for years. One of my clients will call and ask me if they need to pay an invoice that they received from the Trademark Office. Confused, as to why the Trademark Office would have sent them an invoice, I ask the client to forward it to me. I usually receive an e-mail shortly after the phone call attaching the alleged invoice.
Surprisingly, the invoice includes a seal that resembles that of the Trademark Office, and indicates that the trademark owner owes $400 (or some similar amount) for a trademark monitoring service. It does not purport to be a company that is providing an optional service. Instead, it appears to be a fee from a governmental agency. My general advice to my clients upon reviewing these types of documents is that “if you don’t receive for me, it is a scam.”
I wondered how long it would take for the Trademark Office to do something about this. Just last week, I received a trademark registration for my clients, and enclosed was the warning that is pictured on the right. Please click on it to enlarge it so that you can read it. Clicking once will take you to another page that displays a bit of a larger image, and please click on that image to get to an even more readable version. The warning tells the trademark owner to be aware that private companies not associated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office use trademark application and registration information that is publicly available to solicit various services. It also puts the trademark owner on notice that these private companies use names similar to the USPTO, or other governmental agencies, when soliciting these services.
I am glad that the Trademark Office is taking this proactive step to warn trademark owners. My only question is whether or not something can be done to stop these scam artists. Has anyone ever checked to see if they actually provide the services that they collect money for? I highly doubt they do. Please comment below if you have run into similar situations. I am curious to know if anyone has any knowledge on whether or not these companies actually provide the services that they purport to provide.