By Debby Winters
Many trademark owners and applicants have fallen victim to the ever-growing problem of paying a fake or misleading invoice, which looks convincingly authentic and from the USPTO. Not only do they look like they come from official government offices, they reference the particular trademark registration number and mark, hoping to cause further confusion. The companies sending these fake invoices use names like U.S. Trademark Compliance Office or the Patent and Trademark Bureau. To help consumers, the USPTO keeps a list of fake invoice senders and welcomes reports of ones they don’t know about.
These fakes invoices claim to be for things like renewal fees, monitoring, customs recordation, or to place your mark in a database that turns out to be a fake database. The invoices may contain tiny, fine print that explains what they are actually doing and that they are not part of the USPTO, but this is often overlooked. More often, the fees are paid by unsuspecting folks who want to protect their trademarks.
The USPTO is making strides to educate people about these misleading invoices. If you use a trademark attorney to do your filings, all necessary filings and fees due to the USPTO will go through your attorney. If you do not use an attorney, check with one before you pay and get fooled.