Caution: Scam Alert!

Frequently after filing a federal trademark application, the applicant will receive numerous solicitations made to look like official communications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Such misleading communications are from private companies soliciting applicants and registrants to pay for fees and services that are not needed or required. Scam activity has become so rampant it is now considered to be reaching epidemic proportions. Perpetrators find their victims by harvesting publicly available information from the USPTO’s trademark register and then mailing letters with the goal of tricking recipients into believing the letter is an official government correspondence. They then demand payment with an attached invoice for services that range from misleading or superfluous to fraudulent and nonexistent.

Recently, a Latvian citizen, Viktors Suhorukovs, was sentenced to more than 4 years in federal prison and ordered to pay over $4.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to defrauding over 2,900 trademark owners by mailing scam letters demanding phony government fees. Suhorukovs used the names “Patent and Trademark Office” and “Patent and Trademark Bureau” in his letters and even included a QR Code which linked directly to the official USPTO website. This misled victims into believing the communications were legitimate.

Although criminal charges for such activity are rare, the ruling in this case will hopefully deter future potential perpetrators. These scams have been a problem for years and the USPTO has struggled to find a solution. Recently, it posted a scam alert on its website warning applicants and registrants about scammers. The alert and several examples can be found at the following URL:

https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/protect/caution-misleading-notices

All trademark applicants and registrants should be suspect of any communications requesting payment issuing from anyone other than counsel or the USPTO. If you have questions or doubts about a communication you received regarding your trademark application or registration, please reach out to us.

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