By Admin August 22, 2023 Category: Business Law Tags: business attorney business fraud business insights business scams business security chase law group chase law manhattan beach deann chase Intellectual Property Legal Protection los angeles protect your brand scam awareness small business alert small business law small business owners stay informed trademark education trademark renewal trademark safety trademark scams
“Is this a legitimate notice?” This is a question our clients ask us all the time when they receive official-looking documents. Quite often, we tell them that it is not and they can dispose of it in the proper receptacle. However, a business owner cannot take the chance of disregarding an actual governmental notice, so the utmost care should be exercised in evaluating these notices.
In today’s online and digital world, the battle to protect intellectual property and business assets continues to be a chore. Fake trademark renewal letters are one of those scams that are still out there and continue to target small business owners. Yet as time goes on, we start to see certain trends that can help business owners be more aware and gain the knowledge needed to shield a business from these scams. Let’s dive deeper!
How Do You Know It’s A Fake Letter?
We’ve seen enough of these to know that some common signs call out a fake trademark renewal letter. Here are a few things to look out for.
- Using overly official language to act as if it’s correspondence from a government agency. These letters often use over-the-top formal or technical language to come across as legitimate. This is often a scare tactic to convince someone that they’re in trouble with the government.
- Using fear or pressure tactics. Typically, the scammers will make some type of claim that a trademark is at risk of cancellation if the person doesn’t respond immediately (and usually to pay some hefty fees). Any legitimate renewal notices will allow reasonable timeframes to respond to an expiration and if a business has used an attorney to file, then the owner should get advance notice to allow time to file a renewal or extension of the trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) before it expires.
- Asking for unusually high fees. Some scam letters may ask for thousands of dollars to renew a trademark or charge hundreds of dollars to help file the paperwork. All trademark renewal rates can be verified on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Any fees paid to help file paperwork should be looked at closely by ensuring it’s an experienced attorney or legitimate legal service.
- Wrong or inaccurate information. Oftentimes, there are errors in the fake trademark renewal letter, such as incorrect trademark details, misspellings, outdated information or even just a name that could be one or two letters off but looks very close to the actual trademark name to catch someone’s attention. Remember that this misdirection is also a tactic that the scammers use to confuse people and get their money. Oftentimes, the communication may come from what sounds like a government agency with a “.com”. However, the USPTO’s legitimate domain is “.gov”.
- Seeking unusual payment methods. Any renewal payments for a trademark will be made through standard, secure payment channels, not wire transfers or gift cards. Beware of any requests for unusual payment methods.
- Read the fine print. There is usually disclaimer language in small print somewhere in the document that says something like “this company is not affiliated, endorsed or approved by any governmental agency”, “this is not a registration of government organizations” or “we are not a governmental organization.”
New Business Owners Can Be Most Vulnerable
Oftentimes, these scammers prey on the uncertainties of new business owners who could easily be deceived since they’re unfamiliar with the process of filing trademarks. The scammers are good at manipulation. While they may not be sending a blatant forgery letter designed to illegally represent the government (although some scammers do), the solicitation could be more subtle when a company approaches a new business offering to help with filing trademark paperwork for tons of fees. Business owners should consult with an attorney for help filing renewals especially, if they’re not comfortable doing this on their own.
How Can They Get Away With This?
Unfortunately, the scammers usually straddle the line of what’s legal and cross over the line of what is ethical by exploiting the confusion and uncertainty of business owners, hoping they’ll just pay up. However, these scammers are within their legal rights as long as they don’t misrepresent their affiliation with the government. Sadly, the USPTO has had to allocate greater resources to counteract these scams and ironically enough, the USPTO has even received scam letters from the same entities they’re trying to thwart.
A Business Defense Strategy
If a business receives a fake trademark letter, there are some simple steps to follow to take action and avoid a scam:
- Review first and verify. Take the time to carefully review the letter and cross-reference its details with official sources. Visit the USPTO website (www.uspto.gov) and use their online database to confirm the status of your trademark. A business can also consult with a trusted business attorney to help navigate the situation.
- Don’t respond or make any payments. Remember that scammers rely on quick reactions, so don’t respond to the letter or pay anything. Business owners should not react and take the time to make an informed decision. If anything, use this scam letter as a reminder to look into the status of any trademarks if unsure of the time frame for expiration.
- Don’t hesitate to report the scammer. Notifying the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), about the fraudulent letter can help protect other businesses from falling victim.
- Consult an attorney. If uncertain about the legitimacy of the letter, be sure to seek legal advice. A business attorney can provide guidance on what to look for since they typically see these types of letters frequently and can spot a fake.
Keep in mind
Protecting a business starts with education and vigilance. The USPTO will never demand money through letters but will offer general reminders about renewals and trademark owners will be directed to the USPTO online for resources about trademark renewal dates, fees to register trademarks, how to file and tools to protect against fake trademark renewal schemes. Staying informed not only safeguards the business assets, it also upholds the integrity of the business. Experienced business attorneys can be a huge help with keeping a trademark in good standing and not forgetting any upcoming renewal deadlines. Contact Chase Law for any support in trademark and copyright matters for your business at 310-545-7700 or set up a consultation.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. It is recommended to consult with an attorney for specific legal guidance pertaining to your business and its practices.