It is happening more and more that dishonest private companies and scammers, approach trademark applicants to ask them to pay certain service fees or other payments that are in fact neither necessary nor legally required. In order to avoid these fraudulent practices, several important measures need to be taken.
For instance, some fraudsters approach trademark owners directly by e-mail and demand payment of certain expenses, fees or additional charges to obtain trademarks’ registration when these expenses are purely fictitious. The payment notices are often for trademark monitoring services, additional registration services or services related to trademark renewal.
A first problem is that trademark owners are very often approached by a so-called official agency, company or public authority. They use the same official templates, signatures and stamps as these types of entities and they provide the exact data of the trade mark application or registration in question. After all, this kind of information is relatively easy to find online.
Another issue is the cross-border nature of these scams. It may happen that trademark owners receive a notice from a foreign company. While it is perfectly possible that payment notices are bona fide, it is always wise to carefully check the accuracy and legitimacy of such notices.
Therefore, there are several elements to be taken into account.
First of all, one should be extra vigilant when enquiries about trademark procedures do not come directly from your usual counsel. It is better to ask your council if a payment invitation is really due. After all, the latter is fully aware of the applicable time limits, procedural steps and expenses.
Further, it is appropriate to check the stage of the proceedings in which your trademark is located. Isn’t it strange to pay fees for the registration or renewal of a trademark if the time limit has not even started or has already expired?
Finally, there are also official offices and agencies that can be contacted in the event of a suspicious or misleading trademark notice. For instance, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can be contacted. Although this office does not have the legal authority to prevent companies from engaging in these types of fraudulent practices, the USPTO does assist in the fight against fraudulent trademark notices. The USPTO issues reports and works with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Trademark owners can always file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. This commission has the power to investigate and even prosecute if, for example, a particular company commits fraudulent business practices on a large scale.
Fraudulent trade mark notices are becoming increasingly common. It is important to be very vigilant, to check the applicable time limits, to contact your Trademark Attorney before making any payments and to contact offices and official agencies such as the USPTO in case of suspicious or misleading trademark related notices.
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