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.