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In a world where trademark owners craft their brand narratives with creativity and innovation a dark undercurrent emerges – a rising tide of scams driven by the same ingenuity and resourcefulness. As these paths of creativity and innovation intersect, trademark owners must stay vigilant in safeguarding themselves from the ever-evolving tactics of scammers seeking to deceive and defraud. 

According to the FTC, Americans lost $10 billion to scams in 2023, setting a record high and marking a $1 billion increase from the previous year. The aim of this alert is to reduce the overall loss due to scams for 2024…at least from trademark owners. Our goal is to offer you guidance and support to help mitigate the impact of fraudulent activities within the trademark community.

According to the FTC, Americans lost $10 billion to scams in 2023, setting a record high and marking a $1 billion increase from the previous year.

Currently, bad actors are phishing with two new lures: (1) spoofing USPTO phone numbers, and (2) posing as seemingly legitimate companies showing concern about protecting your trademark rights.

Fraudulent calls involve imposters posing as USPTO employees, aiming to extract personal, corporate, or financial information while peddling their illegitimate trademark services and requesting payment. Despite appearing credible on Caller ID, these attackers use "spoofing" techniques to manipulate caller ID information, as well as publicly available information on USPTO employees. 

In addition to phone scams, trademark owners are being targeted by emails indicating that a third party is trying to register your trademark, often creating a sense of urgency to prompt quick responses. As historically done, these communications may mimic official notices, but now they are backed by a complete Internet presence, including websites, business cards, addresses, and phone numbers.

Regardless of the contact method, there is a common tactic that almost always involves enticing offers for trademark services with fees ranging from several hundred to a few thousand dollars. Following payment, scammers may provide a fake receipt without taking any legitimate action, potentially jeopardizing the validity of your registration.  

As USPTO records are publicly accessible, scammers can easily gather information on your company and trademarks, lending a veneer of authenticity to their schemes. 

Spotting a Scam

Fortunately, even the best scammers typically leave clues indicating that their activities are not above board.

  • Redial the number yourself. Hang up and dial the number back yourself to ensure you are actually speaking to a legitimate USPTO employee.
  • Generic Greetings. Be skeptical of generic greetings that don't use your real name.
  • Verify the address. A quick search can reveal if the provided address is authentic. 
  • Scrutinize disclaimers. Scam websites may have unusual or vague disclaimers. If something feels off in the fine print, it’s likely not legitimate.
  • Be a sleuth, conduct research. Scammers often leave digital footprints that expose the transient nature of their operations. A quick online search of suspicious details will likely provide some insights.

Best Practices on Identifying & Responding to Suspected Scams

If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the USPTO or an email from an unfamiliar company regarding your trademark, exercise caution. Refrain from engaging—do not disclose personal, company or financial information, and resist making payments. 

The USPTO posts information and updates about these frauds on its website to further keep trademark owners and applicants aware of these different and increasingly sophisticated schemes.

Apart from trademark registrations and staying informed, there are tools available to monitor and protect your trademark rights, providing an additional layer of security allowing you to comfortably say NO to these fraudulent calls, letters, and emails alleging that your rights are at risk.

Consult known and reputable counsel if you have doubts about the authenticity of a communication or if you want to learn more about the tools available to monitor and protect your rights.