So you applied to register a trademark with the USPTO. Congratulations! There’s still a long road ahead, but getting started means you’re taking your brand seriously. In addition to keeping up with your filing deadlines at the USPTO, you also have to beware of unsavory characters.
Trademark registration applications are public record. If you filed the application yourself (of course I would recommend hiring a trademark attorney), all of the contact information you entered, be it your home address or business address, is searchable. Moreover, third party websites like Justia and Trademarkia gather information from the USPTO and share it themselves. The consequence of this is that your contact information can be easy to find for scammers and opportunists promising to provide you with vague trademark-related services.
At best, you’ll receive emails for trademark searches and other poorly-defined trademark “protection” services. They’re annoying and, if they come from a lawyer or law firm, almost certainly unethical (most if not all states’ Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit attorneys from sending targeted solicitations, see rule 7.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct). I’ve received offers to “protect” my clients' trademarks in China within days of filing their federal registration applications.
At worst, however, some scammers use official-looking names and seals to send phony bills and invoices to trademark applicants.
People fall for these scams, legitimately believing they owe fees to the USPTO. Unfortunately, enough folks have been victims of these scams that the USPTO has an entire page dedicated to identifying and protecting yourself from phony solicitations, including a long list of reported companies.
If your application is filed by a trademark attorney, the attorney will usually enter their own contact information, so they can take the brunt of the spam. However, the owner’s name and address is still required on USPTO filings, so there’s still the possibility of some crap getting through.
How can you protect yourself? Again, I strongly recommend hiring a trademark attorney (and so does the USPTO). A trademark attorney will track your application and inform you of critical deadlines and fees. An attorney can also assist you in the event that you do receive a questionable email or solicitation. If you decide to apply to register a trademark without the assistance of counsel, be aware that these scammers exist, and be very cautious when opening trademark-related communications. If you’re a trademark applicant, all of your official trademark correspondence will come directly from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov). Don’t pay for anything unless you’ve been instructed to by the USPTO.
If you have any questions, as always, feel free to contact me!