Is the USPTO really contacting your company? Maybe not.

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If your business has taken steps to protect your intellectual property with patents or trademarks, you’ve probably had correspondence or communications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But some businesses report receiving letters or emails that look to be from the USPTO, but really aren’t.

The FTC and the USPTO want you to know there are companies that contact patent and trademark holders asking for fees for “services” like renewing your trademark registration, signing you up for trademark monitoring services, recording your trademarks with government agencies, or listing them on a private “registry.” The names, emblems, and wording may seem official and the correspondence may even include USPTO application serial numbers, filing dates, or other publicly-available information. But the solicitations aren’t from the USPTO and some may offer services that are overpriced, unnecessary, or downright deceptive. Patent or trademark holders have paid companies hundreds or even thousands of dollars, mistakenly thinking they were paying fees to the USPTO – or paying fees the USPTO requires – to maintain and protect their patents and trademarks.

Our advice to businesses: Read any notice about your patents or trademarks very carefully. Official mail from the USPTO will come from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA. If it comes via e-mail, the domain will be “@uspto.gov.”

The USPTO has more information about commercial solicitations that resemble official USPTO communications. In addition, the USPTO has basics for small businesses about trademarks and a refresher about the patent process.

If you receive questionable patent- or trademark-related correspondence, report it to the FTC and email the USPTO at TMFeedback@USPTO.gov.

Comments

These scams are a huge problem for trademark owners. They look official, and they confuse recipients. They offer protection that is bogus. FTC, please do more to work with the USPTO, USPS, and law enforcement to crack down on these fraudulent solicitations.

FTC, please prosecute these scam artists. They have sent numerous fraudulent notices claiming false renewal deadlines, and are well known to the FTC and USPTO.

You can help law enforcement by reporting problems to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

It is absolutely impossible for any consumers to report the TM scams on the FTC website. The process is extremely complicated and the forms requires that the consumer be swindled, so it's really not appropriate in most instances. To echo what others have said, please develop a different tool to report all of these scam artists so that you can capture the volume.

Thanks your feedback.  I'll pass your comments along to the people who manage the complaint database.  Comments like yours are the best way for us to know what we have to do to improve. 

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