I generally report quite a lot of discouraging news on this blog about trademark scams – namely that they are rampant, that they seem to be increasing in number and scope, and that it generally appears that the government is doing little to counter them. However, yesterday brought some good news as the Federal government charged two persons with a mass mailing scam targeting trademark holders. These appear to be additional charges and details from the indictment brought in October 2015, as well as the involvement of a second person.
The two scams operated by these individuals were the Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and the Trademark Compliance Office (TCO). In the past, I had written about each of these scams:
Warning: Trademark Compliance Center has nothing to do with the USPTO (6/26/2014)
Warning: U.S. Trademark Compliance Office has nothing to do with the USPTO (10/12/2015)
Some additional details from the Dept. of Justice press release:
Artashes Darbinyan, 36, and Orbel Hakobyan, 41, were charged in a superseding indictment that was unsealed today in the Central District of California with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Darbinyan was also charged with four counts of mail fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, two counts of concealment money laundering and one count of bank fraud for a separate scheme. Hakobyan was also charged with one count of bank fraud.
According to the superseding indictment, Darbinyan operated and controlled Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and Trademark Compliance Office (TCO), which purported to offer trademark registration and monitoring services. The superseding indictment alleges that, through TCC and TCO, Darbinyan sent mass solicitations offering, for a fee, trademark registration and monitoring services to holders of trademarks recently registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, services which Darbinyan did not intend to, and did not, provide. To accomplish this scheme, Darbinyan used the names of other persons to open accounts for TCC and TCO at “virtual office centers” (i.e., businesses that offered call answering and mail forwarding services) in the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles areas, and directed employees of the Washington, D.C.-area virtual office centers to forward mail addressed to TCC and TCO – envelopes containing payments from trademark holders – to the virtual office centers in the Los Angeles area, the superseding indictment alleges.
While this is great news for trademark holders, and perhaps it will give pause to some of the others operating scams, I have some questions: How was this case initiated? Has the DoJ investigated other scam outfits? How long was the investigation?