Once a trademark application is filed with the USPTO, the information – including the owner’s contact information – is public record and easily found online. Unfortunately, several companies mine the public data and send out what are essentially scams to trademark owners. These scams are generally letters from official sounding entities that are not governments and provide no tangible benefit. Their publications and registries sound official to the unknowing and certainly many have sent them checks or credit cards believing it was important or even necessary.
If you have any question as to whether a solicitation is legitimate, contact an attorney. If it it does not say “U.S. Patent and Trademark Office” or “U.S.P.T.O.” on it, it is not a part of the trademark application or registration process. To limit the scams, our firm never provides email addresses or phone numbers of our clients when filing with the USPTO.
Here is a list of some of the entities engaged in these scams:
- 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
For more about these scams from the International Trademark Association, see here.
Similarly, domain name WHOIS information is publicly available and domain name scams are becoming increasingly popular. As the owner of apptorney.com domain name, I received the email below this week purporting to help me protect a brand name regarding Asian domain names. Anyone who replies to one of these scams then gets offered an opportunity to purchase domain names (that they probably have no need for) thinking that if they don’t but them, someone else is already signed up to buy them, and if someone else buys them who knows what they will be used for and could confuse customers or hurt business? But it is merely a scam. If you receive any such email, copy and paste a sentence or two from the email into a search engine and read all about others who have received the scam.
TIP: Unfortunately, the public data used for trademark and domain name registration is also used to perform scams. If you receive one and are unsure what to do or whether it is a scam, contact an attorney for guidance.
Subject: Concerning “apptorney ” Brand name disputee
(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward to the right person/ department, as this is urgent, thank you.)
We are the department of registration service in China. we have something which needs to confirm with you. We formally received an application on July 2st 2010. One company called “HeWa Technologies Pvt. Ltd ” is applying to register “ apptorney ” as Brand name and domain names as below:
After our initial checking, we found the Brand name and domain names being applied are as same as your company! So we need confirmation with your company. If the aforementioned company is your business partner or your subsidiary, please DO NOT reply us, we will approve the application automatically. If you don’t have any relationship with this company, please contact us within 5 workdays. If over the deadline, we will approve the application submitted by “HeWa Technologies Pvt. Ltd ” unconditionally.