Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bogus Trademark Monitoring & Document Filing Companies

If you own a U.S. trademark registration - or even if you have just filed a trademark application - you may receive an unsolicited official-looking notice from an organization with an official-sounding name like "U.S. Trademark Protection Service" that offers to "monitor" your trademark application or renew your trademark registration. These companies are not affiliated with the official U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ("PTO") where you filed your trademark application and it is unclear who owns, controls and operates these document filing companies. What is clear is that many trademark owners are confused by these notices. It is also clear that many of these companies appear to be practicing law without a license AND are providing incomplete advice. For example, the notices from these companies that I have reviewed usually fail to let a trademark owner know that it is important to file an "Affidavit of Incontestability" with the PTO between the 5th and 6th year after a trademark is first registered. Filing the Affidavit of Incontestability is optional - not mandatory - but it improves and strengthens the value of your trademark registration.

Here is an excerpt from the warning notice at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website:

Warning to USPTO Customers: Trademark Monitoring and Document Filing Companies

You may receive unsolicited communications from companies requesting fees for trademark related services, such as monitoring and document filing. Although solicitations from these companies frequently display customer-specific information, including USPTO serial number or registration number and owner name, companies who offer these services are not affiliated or associated with the USPTO or any other federal agency. The USPTO does not provide trademark monitoring or any similar services.

Such companies typically charge a service fee in addition to applicable USPTO fees. In many instances, applicants and registrants have mistakenly believed that the USPTO has issued these communications or that these companies are affiliated with the USPTO. Complaints about such companies or communications may be made to the Federal Trade Commission, at

Our tips: (1) Remember that the official name of the PTO is "United States Patent & Trademark Office"; (2) If you used a lawyer to file your trademark application, contact your lawyer when you receive one of these unsolicited notices; and (3) If you filed your own trademark application or want to renew your trademark registration yourself, go directly to the PTO website at and follow the instructions.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Domain Name Tips #1 & #2

As the importance of the Internet for business grows, so grows the need to utilize smart strategies for both selecting and maintaining your domain names. Here are the first two of ten tips we've learned that you might find useful in protecting what we refer to as "Internet real estate":

1. Shop Around For Your Domain Name Registrar: In the old days, Network Solutions, Inc. ("NSI") had a virtual lock on the process of registering domain names. That's because NSI was the only official Domain Name Registrar. That’s no longer the case and lots of competitors have popped up; as a result the cost of registering a domain name has dropped. Shop around. We like GODADDY.COM where you can register a domain name for as little as about $10 a year per domain name. Ask around and see which Registrar your friends and colleagues like.

2. Make sure your business name and trademarks are registered: Registering your domain name is not the same as registering your company name or product name as a trademark, so registering your company/product name(s) as trademarks is important too. Trademarks can be registered with the State you operate in, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“PTO”) and internationally. The process of registering a trademark could be the subject of a full-length article, but the USPTO website is a good place to get some basic info.

More tips will follow in subsequent postings.