Have you recently received a letter from the "Patent and Trademark Office" in Washington, DC? An official looking letter that demands payment and warns that your trade mark will be cancelled if you don’t pay? Here is one received by one of our clients recently. The letter gives the impression it’s a genuine communication from the USPTO with a US address, and asks for $925 to renew a trade mark. The letter has a graphic representation of the trade mark and the serial number of the mark, and an official-looking barcode on the letter. But this is not an official letter - it is sent from a private company and is a scam.
These private companies often use information freely available from the USPTO’s databases to send solicitations for, among other things, legal services, trade mark monitoring and renewal services, or registration of trade marks in unofficial publications or ‘registers’.
How can you tell it is a scam?
- Read the fine print – in the letter the company admits that it is a ‘non-governmental company and is not connected to any of the governmental organizations’. Also, typos, poor grammar and spelling errors are common in this type of scam.
- The USPTO will direct all official communications to your attorney or contact person of record, but this letter was sent direct to the company address. Also, all official correspondence will come from the ‘United States Patent and Trademark Office’ in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain ‘@uspto.gov.’
- These letters often include a pre-paid reply envelope, as in this case, to encourage you to pay the ‘fee’ as quickly as possible.
What to do?
If you receive an unsolicited invitation, do not pay it until you have checked what services are being offered and if it is from an official source. We would always recommend that you check with your intellectual property attorney.
Many thanks to our client, SPTS Technologies Limited, for agreeing to allow us to reproduce the fake letter in its entirety. SPTS followed the best practice on dealing with these scam letters, and immediately brought it to our attention.
Ian Lambert and Susanna Stephen