Recently, our firm received what appeared to be a “contract” or “bill” for services for which we had not solicited. The company, called Intellectual Property Services, which is based out of the Czech Republic sent a “contract” demanding payment of $2,356 as a “registration fee” for one of our registered trademarks. The “contract” included information about our trademark such as its registration number, International Class, mark type and the date it was published. As for the registration fee, it is unclear what the fee is for by just looking at the front page of the document, however, further answers were found on their website.
The company’s website describes their service as providing their clients “access to our Patents and Trademark database for comfortable searching and gaining information.” This almost sounds like a necessary service until you remember the USPTO provides free trademark tracking through their MyUSPTO feature on their website, as well as free access to their trademark database for searching and free notices of publication of new trademarks in their journal called the Official Gazette.
The scariest part of this scam is the inclusion of accurate information about our trademark, such as its class and registration number. It makes the scam appear much more sophisticated than it actually is considering this information is public, and may be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. Additionally, the scam concerns trademark owners dealings with the government which adds an extra layer of trustworthiness. Simply put, this is a scam in the form of a carefully crafted contract which has the appearance of government authority.
Earlier this year, our office received a similar “contract” from a company called Glotrade. Similarly, Glotrade’s contract demanded we pay a few thousand dollars for access to the trademark database. Luckily, a significant part of our law practice revolves around trademark and we immediately knew these forms are simply bogus attempts to bind unsuspecting trademark owners to exorbitantly priced contracts with zero actual benefits for the trademark owners.
One moral of this story is of course do not give money to people or sign contracts with people without doing proper research. It is also important to remember it is unlikely the USPTO will send anything to you via “snail mail.” Correspondence with the USPTO takes place largely through the tools and links on their website including TEAS and TTABVUE.
Trademark monitoring is important for protecting your trademark, however, monitoring can be done for free by the individual trademark owner. Better yet, trademark law firms are right here in the United States and trademark owners can hire law firms who specialize in trademark (rather than sketchy Czech companies looking to scam innocent people) to ensure their mark has the most protection.