by Kelley Keller | Featured Contributor
If you register a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you could become the victim of a predatory trademark scam without even knowing it.
Unfortunately, these scams can cost trademark owners a lot of money, but you don’t have to be a victim. You can protect your trademarks, your wallet, and your business if you learn how to recognize a very common type of trademark scam that will likely arrive in your mailbox one day.
I’m talking about predatory trademark scam letters. They appear to come from official sources. They even cite trademark laws and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll probably think these letters are real, but they’re not.
Predatory Trademark Scam Letter Red Flags
There are a few things you can look for to determine if a letter you receive regarding your federally registered trademark is a scam and should go directly into the garbage can.
Red Flag 1: Source
First, look at the source. Who sent it to you? If it’s not from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia, then it’s not an official government communication. Furthermore, email messages that don’t come from the domain “uspto.gov” are not official.
Check out some examples of real predatory trademark scam letters that trademark owners have received recently to see what you should look for.
Red Flag 2: Listing and Monitoring Offer
Another red flag is the offer within the letter. If the sender is asking you to send money to get your trademark listed on some kind of internet database or other type of database, it’s a scam. If they’re offering to monitor your trademark to ensure it stays on this database or registry, it’s a scam.
These databases are completely useless. If your trademark has been federally registered, it’s already included in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s official database, and as long as you continue to use your mark in commerce and file the proper documents, it will stay listed in that database.
Red Flag 3: Counterfeit Notification Offer
A third red flag that you should look for is a letter that asks you to pay to have your trademark registered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection so you can be notified when counterfeit goods that infringe on your trademark make it into the country.
For the vast majority of small businesses, this service is completely unnecessary. If your business is domestic (both manufacturing and sales), paying to register your marks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection is unnecessary.
Some Final Advice
Keep in mind, people fall victim to trademark scam letters every day. Even people who are represented by general attorneys (or any attorney who doesn’t specialize in intellectual property law) end up paying for services like the ones discussed above when they shouldn’t.
Bottom-line, educate yourself and get the right help so you don’t become a victim of unnecessarily expensive trademark scams!
Kelley Keller, Esq. is President of Circle Legal and a 20-year veteran of the intellectual property law field. As an intellectual property attorney, she has deep experience helping businesses of all sizes identify, manage, and protect their trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets, including many household brands like Toyota, Disney, and Verizon, which she worked with during her tenure at one of the largest IP law firms in Washington, D.C. At Circle Legal, she focuses on redesigning the legal experience for innovative companies, business owners, and their families by providing comprehensive services that build solid legal, insurance, finance, and tax foundations for her clients (their LIFT Foundations).
Kelley’s personable nature and ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms set her apart from most attorneys. She is relentless in helping businesses, their owners, and their families mitigate risks and open the doors to new opportunities. You can hear her helping business owners every week on the Circle Legal Business Fix-It Show broadcasting on iHeartRadio.
You can find Kelley on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ and download her free ebook, 41 Steps to Start a Business and Build Wealth the Right Way.