Trademark Scams on the Rise

By Rhonda Handy on July 01, 2024

The Rise of Trademark Scams: What to Know and Watch For

Scams Target Businesses (with and without a trademark application)

Trademark scams have been around for years; we just didn’t often hear about them.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally gotten questions from clients about whether an email or letter they received was a trademark scam.

Recently, I received a client question regarding a possible scam email. I was sure it was a scam and confirmed it with our trademark attorney, Christine Lebron-Dykeman, Partner, from McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. About a month later, Lebron-Dykeman contacted me to let me know they had seen a significant increase in trademark scams. She attached their MVS Brief Newsletter and encouraged me to read the article “Trademark Scams,” written by her colleague, Michael C. Gilchrist.

Since these scams have significantly increased, now is a good time to help educate our clients and others regarding the information from Gilchrist’s article and The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I believe the more you know about common scams will help you to avoid falling for one of these schemes.


Common Trademark Scams

Fake Solicitation

In this scam, the criminal basically claims that another company is applying for a trademark for your business’s name. Here are a few excerpts to be aware of:

“Despite our repeated attempts to establish contact, we regret to inform you that we have not received any response from you thus far …

The other applicant has initiated their application process with another firm. Our efforts thus far have been aimed at holding their request, allowing you the opportunity to register the trademark under your ownership, considering you have been using this business name for a significant

period …

If the other applicant successfully registers “___” several potential consequences may arise, including loss of rights, rebranding costs, confusion among customers, legal action limited expansion …

Your immediate attention to this matter is crucial. We still have the opportunity to initiate opposition proceedings … we believe we have a strong case.”


Caller ID Spoofing Scams

Spoofing utilizes technology to display a fake caller ID so the call looks like it is coming from a different number than it actually is.

According to the USPTO, scam callers target current trademark applicants and potential applicants, and may spoof the phone numbers so it looks like the call is coming from the USPTO. They may even try to impersonate a real USPTO employee. Two common phone numbers scammers use are 571.272.1000 or 800.786.9199.

USPTO recommends that you don’t answer these calls. Remember, the caller may be spoofing a number to make it look like it’s the USPTO. If you answer, they will make it sound like it’s an emergency. For example, “If you don’t pay this immediately your application will be delayed.”

If you’re not sure if it’s real or if you have a question, call your attorney or trademark attorney using the phone number you have in your files. Always go to your records or the law firm’s official website for the correct number.


Post-Registration Scams

Gilchrist said this is the scam they see most often.

Here’s how it works: The scammer sends a notice (either by email or regular mail) and states the trademark registration will be canceled if not renewed. The scammer tells you they will take care of preparing the paperwork so you can keep it in force. The notice typically looks official and includes a “mixture” of actual information from the registration (such as your registration number) along with incorrect information.

Keep in mind that if your trademark registration lists your attorney (which is most common), the USPTO will address all correspondence to the attorney, not to you. If you have questions, or think you have fallen for a trademark scam, or you want to check on the status of your trademark/services mark, contact your attorney.

USPTO Says to Watch for the Following …

  • Scams that relate to a logo, a trademark you have (or someone else is trying to register your business name).
  • Communication that claims urgent action is needed.
  • They require payment from you.
  • They imply that they are from USPTO or associated with them (or other government agency).
  • They exploit information available to the public and combine it with fake or wrong information.
  • You received a search report that says it is from USPTO – it’s not. (USPTO does not prepare or issue search reports.)
  • You received an invoice from USPTO (they don’t issue invoices).
  • Claims that you can get a lifetime trademark registration if you pay $XXX. (There is NO such thing as a lifetime registration, there will be periodic fees.)
  • Claims that they have a process that can expedite your registration for a fee … that is false.
  • You receive a text message with a reminder of a deadline. (USPTO does NOT currently use text messages for deadline reminders.)
  • The website URL ends with .org or .com. Always remember that U.S. government agencies always end in .gov – NOT .org or .com.
  • Scammers use similar names such as Patent and Trademark Office, Patent and Trademark Bureau, Trademark Renewal Service.
  • They generally have a long disclaimer that will include “… a private business that is not endorsed by the U.S. Government.”
  • USPTO employees do NOT request payment via phone, email, or text.
  • Some scammers claim they are recommended by the USPTO. USPTO does NOT recommend specific companies or attorneys.

Remember … If you receive an email, letter, call, or text regarding a trademark or service mark, be alert and remember the common scams and the areas to watch for as suggested by USPTO.

When in doubt, or if you think you may have fallen for a scam, call your attorney.


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About The Author
Rhonda Handy

Spending most days deep in the trenches of financial research and compliance, Rhonda truly enjoys solving problems and going the extra mile for both her co-workers and our clients. As a former banker, she brings a highly valued perspective to our client work, compliance and research.