Every day a new patent and trademark bureau springs into existence. However, most of these bureaus are not legitimate. They are outright scams offering fraudulent services. Trademark attorneys often receive inquiries on the legitimacy of patent and trademark bureaus from concerned clients.

Patent and Trademark Bureau Scams

Trademark applicants must be on the lookout for trademark solicitation scams. Despite recent success in prosecuting trademark scammers — such as two California men who pled guilty to a mass-mailing scam that defrauded people of $1.66 million — new scammers pop up all the time.

In the last couple of months, numerous business owners received a letter with an invoice attached to it from a “Patent and Trademark Resource Center.”

The letter stated that the company's name was “Patent & Trademark Office” and that it was headquartered in New York, NY. The letter even had a realistic trademark, a serial number of the mark, and an authentic-looking barcode. To an untrained person, the letter would seem genuine, but most professionals would be able to tell at first glance that it was a scam.

The Red Flags

The first red flag in the latter example was the astronomical cost of $1,690 that the company was charging. Furthermore, the services they offered were not clearly described, thus making it hard to decipher if they only help with section 8 renewal, section 15 renewal, or both. They also did not express in the letter whether they provide legal advice on renewals and if they are attorneys belonging to the bar. Every piece of information in that letter was extremely ambiguous. They did have a website with the domain name patenttrademarkoffice.us, but unsurprisingly, the site was not up and running.

Business owners should immediately contact their attorney each time they receive a letter like this in their inbox. They should also report this fraudulent company to the FTC and USPTO.

It is of utmost importance to also know the most important red flags in these types of emails from scammers. Here are the three most crucial:

  • A hefty sum of money is involved.
  • The letter promises some sort of infringement by a third party if you, as the business owner, decide not to act immediately.
  • The email includes a real deadline, pressuring you to send them money right away.

The USTPO List of Fraudulent Companies

It would also be very wise to check out the USPTO website for a definitive list of these fraudulent companies. Here are a few examples:

  • Patent & Trademark Resource Center (Seattle & Woodinville, WA)
  • Patent and Trademark Organization (New York, NY)
  • Trademark Office Ltd. (New York, NY)
  • U.S. Trademark Compliance Office (Wilmington, DE)
  • Patent & Trademark Bureau (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Patent & Trademark Office (555 Madison Ave., New York, NY)
  • Patent & Trademark Office (299 Park Ave., New York, NY)
  • Patent & Trademark Agency (New York, NY)
  • Trademark and Patent Office (Los Angeles, CA)
  • P.T.M.A. Patent and Trademark Association (New York, NY)

How an Attorney Can Help

Attorneys can enlighten their clients about these scammers so that they can avoid getting duped. Trademark attorneys spend a significant amount of time trying to give business owners who are applying for a trademark needed advice and warn them about these types of scams.

To protect their clients, trademark attorneys often take a step further and purposefully exclude some specific contact information from trademark applications, including the email address and phone number of all their applicants. Doing this can help minimize the number of these scam letters that trademark applicants receive. However, due to the fact that every trademark applicant must provide an email address with their USPTO filing; scammers still get ahold of the contact information of trademark applicants.

Recently, the USPTO made a short video discussing how trademark solicitations work. After you register with the USPTO, the USPTO will send all official letters and emails to your attorney of record. Trademark applicants who haven't listed an attorney or don't yet have one must only open emails that came from the domain “@uspto.gov.” If this domain is not present in the email address, they must regard the e-mail as spam, as it is not coming from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is very important to have an attorney look over any dubious or suspicious e-mails received.

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