The following is an edited transcript of my video The Trademark Scam Decision Tree
Past listeners and viewers of my videos and podcasts will know that from time to time I provide an update and more information about trademark scams, and the time has come once again. The reason is twofold. Number one is I’ve got a new tool to help you decipher whether or not something you received in the mail might be a trademark scam.
The second reason is that there’s been a little bit of activity in the government’s efforts to fight trademark scams. That activity for the most part is, believe it or not, the USPTO filed to register the trademarks of USPTO and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and their logos. Those marks used by the USPTO had actually never been registered. They’re not contained in the trademark register currently as registered protected marks.
At the urging of some colleagues of mine, the USPTO recognized that registering their names–like businesses, of course, should do as well–would give them tools to battle copycats and scammers who trade off of the USPTO’s brand. So that is good news. Now, I would like to see them do a lot more. First of all, it’s going to take many months or maybe even a year to complete the registration process because that’s how long it takes for anybody when they file a new application.
But even more so, I would like to see the Patent and Trademark Office doing other things like working more closely with Congress and the FTC and other federal agencies to crack down on the scams and to provide better information on their website in a more clear manner for the public about the scams and to contact the landlords at the various addresses, mail drops, other addresses used by the scammers to collect checks and money and send out mailing and finally to create a public task force.
I believe there is a task force at the USPTO dealing with the scams, but to my knowledge, it hasn’t been public at all who’s on the task force. There’s no members of the outside bar or of users of the USPTO on that, and their meetings haven’t been publicly held to my knowledge. So I’d like to see a more robust and public task force regarding that. I actually have an article coming out in Landslide, which is a publication from the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law, that talks about some of the latest developments in tackling scams.
But now back to the decision tree that I mentioned. You will see this decision tree for evaluating whether a communication that you’ve received about a trademark filing is legitimate or a scam in this visual. You can also visit my special scam website.
The bottom line is, if you’re represented by an attorney, any communication that’s official should come from your attorney. If you’re not represented by an attorney, then look at the details, look at the fine print. Is it from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia or the uspto.gov domain name, if it’s an email? If it’s not, it’s almost certainly someone’s trying to impersonate the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. So names like Patent and Trademark Bureau or World Trademark Protection, things like this are made to sound official and governmental, but they are scams and frauds.
So look at the decision tree. You can evaluate based on the details that you’ve got. If it’s a request to publish your mark in some sort of a database or directory, you can also be assured that is a scam. Those private directories and databases have zero value, I assure you. In my 22 years in private practice, I have never once referred to one of those private directories for any type of research about a trademark.
Let me know what you think. Let me know if you think it’s missing anything thing or could be improved or updated. If you have received a scam, let us know in the comments. I know nobody wants to acknowledge having been duped. Number one, maybe you’ve received a scam and recognized it. We’d love to hear about that. Number two, even if you have been duped, let’s spread the word to the USPTO and the other government agencies so they understand how serious of a matter this is.
For more, see IS THIS A TRADEMARK SCAM?