At the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), our fundamental mission is to provide stable, reliable, and predictable intellectual property (IP) rights for those who receive a patent or a trademark registration. Over the years, the USPTO has developed systems to protect trademark owners and innovators from fraud, theft, and abuse from those intent on stealing their proprietary ideas, their designs, their brand identities, and their livelihoods.
We investigate possible scams involving suspected fraud, unauthorized practice of law, and abuse of our rules, such as the rise in fraudulent solicitations from so-called IP “experts” offering their services to assist owners of trademark applications and registrations at the USPTO.
We’re dedicated to identifying these problems and stopping them where possible. We look to see if violations are unintentional, or essentially simple and honest mistakes, or whether the behavior is intended to defraud our customers and the integrity of the trademark register. Although we don’t have the legal authority to sue or prosecute those who attempt to defraud our customers, we actively work with other federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), to help raise awareness of fraudulent activity and fight back.
Nine things you can do to protect your trademark application or registration
- Check our Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) database to verify information and deadlines. Be sure your correspondence and secondary email addresses are accurate.
- Regularly monitor your trademark filing.
- Set up an “alert” in your MyUSPTO account, which will notify you when there are changes or something is filed.
- If you are an attorney, search your name in TESS with the [at] tag to see if your name appears in submissions that you did not authorize. Be aware that the attorney email field is not yet searchable.
- If you receive suspicious correspondence, check our scam alert webpage or contact our Trademark Assistance Center to help evaluate the validity of the correspondence. The USPTO will never ask you for social security numbers or credit card numbers in general correspondence. Check our current fee schedule to confirm whether the fees you’re being charged are legitimate.
- If you are using or considering using a trademark service company, check whether they are subject to an Order for Sanctions from the USPTO or listed as an entity on our Potentially Misleading Solicitations webpage if you have a concern about a filing entity with whom you are working.
- If you are concerned about the validity of your application or the conduct of any of the entities involved in your application, consult with a private U.S. attorney who is knowledgeable about trademark law (and not connected to any entity listed in our webpages in #6 above) to evaluate your application.
- If a registration has issued for your trademark and you did not authorize it, consider filing a petition to cancel the registration with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
- Check Customs and Border Protection (CBP) records to ensure any unauthorized registration hasn’t been recorded with CBP and check our webpage to learn how to record your trademark registration with CBP.
What we’re doing to protect the register
We’re focused on education and outreach about known scams and sharing information with law enforcement agencies so they can investigate. Our goal is to protect the integrity of the trademark register and our customers. These are some of the other things we’re doing in addition to working with law enforcement agencies:
The Post Registration Audit program promotes the accuracy and integrity of the trademark register. We randomly audit registration maintenance filings to help preserve the trademark register as a reliable reflection of trademarks used in commerce. As of January 2, 2021, we’re charging a per class deletion fee every time a registrant files a maintenance filing that, upon examination or audit, is found to be deficient as to use claims. You can avoid this fee by filing an accurate maintenance declaration that does not include any goods or services on which the mark is no longer in use and/or filing a $0 fee Section 7 amendment to delete any unused goods or services from the registration outside of the time period for filing and examination of the maintenance declaration.
We increased our scrutiny of specimens and issued guidance to our examining attorneys empowering them to issue specimen refusals if any concerns about their legitimacy are identified. We’re also implementing innovative solutions to identify doctored or fake specimens.
Special task force
We implemented an internal special task force responsible for investigating possible scams of which we are aware and evaluating whether sanctions are necessary to address them. The task force may also refer matters of interest to the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) for attorney misconduct or to law enforcement if criminal fraud is suspected.
Representation by U.S. attorney
We started requiring foreign domiciled applicants or registrants to be represented by a U.S. licensed attorney. This rule was designed to improve the quality of submissions by U.S. attorneys who are bound by ethical rules to follow the USPTO rules of professional conduct and their state bar codes of conduct. Attorneys suspected of misconduct may be referred to the OED.
Mandatory login on MyUSPTO is now required for anyone filing an electronic form. There are two additional phases to our mandatory login process, which include identity verification and role-based access to further increase our database security.
Trademark Modernization Act
The Trademark Modernization Act (TMA), signed into law on December 27, 2020, will give the USPTO and trademark owners additional tools to maintain a robust trademark system and better protect the integrity of the trademark register. We’re currently working on the implementation scheduled for December 27, 2021.