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Warning! Trademark renewal scam alert

published in McAfee & Taft tIPsheet | October 3, 2019

In an August 2017 article titled “Don’t be duped by the trademark solicitation,” we warned you about misleading solicitations from private companies to renew your trademark registrations and provide other trademark-related services. At the time, we had hoped that the problem would be addressed by now; however, in some ways, it may have gotten worse.

For example, over the past few weeks, we have had numerous calls and e-mails from clients regarding the following solicitation (specific client information has been redacted):

Sample of an IP scam notification letter

Like many others, the above solicitation is disguised as a reminder from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It even lists an address on Pennsylvania Avenue next to the White House (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is actually located in Alexandria, Virginia, but that is beside the point). The solicitation also implies that the subject trademark registration will be cancelled if the owner does not promptly respond with his or her money. Interestingly, the renewal deadline listed on these types of solicitations is typically a year or more before the actual renewal deadline — an obvious attempt to cash in before the renewal comes up on the attorney’s docket. Finally, the fee being solicited is significantly higher than what McAfee & Taft and most law firms charge for the same service.

These highly misleading solicitations are causing a great deal of confusion among trademark owners. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, and numerous bar associations across the country have posted warnings and taken other action in an attempt to combat the problem. Nevertheless, despite such efforts, it looks like the problem will continue, at least for the time being.

What should you do? First, be vigilant about spotting such solicitations, and advise others in your organization to do the same. When in doubt about a solicitation that you receive, pick up the phone and call us or send it our way for confirmation that it can be ignored. Rest assured, if you obtained a trademark registration through McAfee & Taft, we have the maintenance deadlines on our docket and will contact you when renewal or other maintenance deadlines are approaching.

It’s a scary world out there, but with proper vigilance we can avoid being scammed.