Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trademark Wars - Part 2: Bogus Trademark Protection & Renewal Services

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 notify a trademark owner 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 greatly improves and strengthens the value of your trademark registration.

Here is an excerpt from the warning notice at the PTO 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 http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

Here are Branfman Law Group's tips to our clients and friends: (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 www.uspto.gov and follow the instructions. We are here to help if you have any questions.

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