By Lexie Elder
Trademark owners are being targeted with an influx of scam mail. These deceptive communications can come in various forms and fashions and are often disguised as legitimate requests, making it paramount for trademark owners to stay cautious. Here are three examples of such deceptive communications that we’ve come across recently:
- USPTO Invoice Impersonation: Some scam mail presents itself as an invoice demanding payment for “Trademark Publication.” These invoices appear authentic and are designed to make trademark owners think that the requested payment is required to maintain or publish their trademark. However, in small print, the invoice states that the payment is merely for publication of the owner’s trademark registration on a private and dubious website, a service no trademark owner wants or needs. Trademark owners should never respond to these invoices, let alone pay any amount of money, without first seeking confirmation directly from legal counsel.
- Bogus Domain Registration Demands: Deceptive emails relating to international domain name registration are also a common scam. These emails purport to offer services, such as preventing someone in China from registering your domain name or helping you register your domain name in China. Again, what may appear as a general inquiry or legitimate offer of services at first can lead to financial losses and under no circumstances should you respond to these emails.
- Coercive and Misleading Demands in the US: Finally, some scammers in the US have also started sending coercive letters similar to the domain name scams, this time urging trademark owners pursue additional registrations. These letters appear to come from someone with an “official” sounding title and warn the recipient that someone else is trying to register their trademark but that the sender has put the application “on hold” until the recipient responds. The coercive letter further demands that the recipient register its trademark, citing fabricated legal obligations. This is a particularly insidious tactic that preys on the fear of legal consequences for ignoring the letter.
While these are just a few examples, these types of deceptive communications all share the same underlying goal: to extract money from unsuspecting trademark owners. It is crucial for trademark owners to exercise extreme caution and thoroughly verify the legitimacy of any and all correspondence relating to their trademark that does not come from their legal counsel. You can also read more about trademark scams – including some of the most common and newer scams (there are dozens of examples given) – on the USPTO’s website here.