Email scams used to be relatively easy to spot. They often came from obviously sketchy email addresses and were fraught with misspellings and odd requests for money or information. However, scams have become increasingly more frequent and sophisticated. No longer are the majority of email scams from a “prince” of a foreign country promising millions of dollars in exchange for $10,000 worth of gift cards. Email scammers are now using domains that are identical or similar to those of their perceived source and are using language and demands that, on their face, appear somewhat legitimate.
In response to an increased frequency in scam emails, the USPTO recently issued a notice of a sophisticated email scam targeting owners of trademark registrations. The emails appear to originate from the USPTO using a “@uspto.gov” domain but are in fact sent by third parties. The USPTO warned these emails are scams and do not originate from the USPTO.
These scam emails may include the following:
- Spoof of the USPTO email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org)
- False claims that the USPTO has a new policy requiring separate registration of “clients” and that there is a “penalty” for not complying
- Incorrect USPTO trademark filing information (e.g., incorrect fee information)
The USPTO advises that if someone receives any communication that is believed to be from the USPTO they can double check it by going to the Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) database. The TSDR file will show outgoing communication from the USPTO. If the email or letter does appear in the TSDR file, it is, with a few exceptions, not from the USPTO. Additionally, anyone that has received one of these fraudulent emails or paid money in response to such an email scam may file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
The USPTO has a solicitations webpage that provides a list of examples of solicitations from third parties unaffiliated with the USPTO, including known scams, potentially misleading offers and notices, and other non-USPTO solicitations about which the USPTO has received inquiries or complaints.
We strongly advise any client receiving email correspondence that appears to be from the USPTO or any third party to not respond directly to such emails and to verify the authenticity through the TSDR prior to taking any action. Additionally, Bradley’s Intellectual Property team is available to answer questions regarding any communication related to your trademark or other intellectual property.