Joshua Julien Brouard
11 September 2023 • 4 min read
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From what I’ve learned, there is no more incredible reassurance for a business owner than that of the United States government legitimizing their claim to use a name in commerce.
A federally registered trademark is often the key to expanding your business nationally. And it's a critical step to becoming a significant player in the global economy.
It's precisely for this reason that there is no greater fear than the belief that you're not as protected as you think. And where there is blood in the water, there are bound to be sharks.
Those who have been in business long enough know that every other day includes twenty new spam emails. Each mail promises extraordinary rewards for "low cost."
(I’ve seen this — especially in my work email.)
This is especially true when it comes to trademarks. Consider how most business owners fail to educate themselves on trademark registration. This makes them susceptible to con artists looking to make easy money at someone else's expense.
The most common form of trickery comes in an official-looking email stating that to protect your trademark from infringing parties, you can pay a fee to such-and-such company. In exchange, they will monitor all trademarks filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for those that may be confusingly similar to your proposed trademark.
Entrepreneurs be warned: These are trademark scams, plain and simple.
Luckily, we can follow a few straightforward rules to ensure that a cunning con doesn't trap us.
The first rule, and probably the most important, is for individuals or private companies who use a law firm to assist them in the trademark process. If the email is not sent by the law firm that assisted you, consider sending it to your legal counsel for review.
When you retain the services of a law firm, they become correspondents for your trademark.
This means that any correspondence issued by the examining attorney at the USPTO should be sent to said law firm, who in turn would contact you. As such, if you are receiving direct email, mail, or phone calls from any other company or institution, it's possibly spam.
As a trademark owner, it's best to stick with the law firm who assisted you, as they can help you in the future with services such as:
Warning: Shameless self-advertising coming up below.
Obviously, suppose you have filed by yourself at the Trademark Office website or used another company that is not a law firm to assist you. In that case, you may be the correspondent for your trademark application, and the examining attorney will contact you directly.
So the second tip trademark owners can use to protect themselves from trademark scams is this:
Search for the company that sent you the email with the Better Business Bureau to see if it has a reputation among its users.
The USPTO receives approximately five thousand trademark applications each week. So, there is certainly a chance that a confusingly similar mark to yours may be filed at any given time.
As such, a trademark monitoring service can be very beneficial to have, but only if the company is actually going to perform the work.
Trademark holders: Do your homework. Search online for reputable companies that offer these services. Consider if a company has:
They will broadcast those things on their website because they know that is what educated business owners look for.
Daniel Cooper, managing partner at Lolly, a software development company, had this to say about cybersecurity:
Just like you wouldn't open your home's door to a stranger without confirming who they are, you must also be careful with the emails you receive, especially when they are from companies offering legal services.
Imagine your spam filter as a diligent guard at the gates of a grand castle, always watching and evaluating who gets to enter. Despite being trained to recognize unwanted visitors, sometimes, cleverly disguised impostors manage to get through. They may use fancy costumes, or even assume the identity of someone you know, by using similar-looking email addresses or logos.
This is why it is crucial to look at what domain the email came from. The domain is like the home address of the email — it tells you where it was sent from. Just as you wouldn't accept a letter from an unknown address, you shouldn't trust an email from a strange domain.
How can you become a super detective and spot these fake emails? Besides the strange domain, there might be other clues hidden like secret messages in a spy movie. They might have weird spellings or strange language, or they might ask for personal information, like your social security number or bank details, which a reputable company would never do through an email.
When a company claims to offer legal services, you can imagine them as someone applying for a very important job — they should have the right qualifications and papers to prove they are real. In the real world, this means they should be registered officially to offer legal services. To find out if they are truly the professionals they claim to be, you can do a little detective work by checking online directories or official websites to see if they are registered and legitimate.
You need to be cautious and protect yourself from the potential dangers that can come from opening an email from an unknown or suspicious source. By becoming an email detective, you ensure that your personal information remains safe, like a treasure locked in a fortress. When in doubt, always double-check the facts, look at the domain, and ensure the company is legally allowed to provide the services they offer.
If all else fails, don't bother with any non-USPTO solicitation for supplementary services.
Instead, utilize the tools made available to you by the USPTO on their website.
All trademark applications any small business files with the USPTO become public information accessible via their online database.
As such, there is a search option on their website that anyone can use to search for marks that have been applied for; just search for keywords that are in your trademark name or similar to it, and voilà!
Whether or not you decide to monitor for infringing trademarks is up to you (the examining attorneys at the USPTO are pretty good at their job, FYI), but no matter what you do, just try not to feed the trademark-related-services sharks!
Unfortunately, there are many trademark scams out there that mainly target trademark applicants who are either filing their first trademark or planning to. There are also trademark watch scams, often in email form. These come from fraudulent parties.
This is something we've always been proud of. You can conduct a free trademark search on our website to see if a trademark has been registered already.
While trademark infringement usually leads to a cease and desist letter, damages may also be claimed depending on the nature and severity of the infringement.
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Joshua Julien Brouard
Joshua J. Brouard brings a rich and varied background to his writing endeavors. With a bachelor of commerce degree and a major in law, he possesses an affinity for tackling business-related challenges. His first writing position at a startup proved instrumental in cultivating his robust business acumen, given his integral role in steering the company's expansion. Complementing this is his extensive track record of producing content across diverse domains for various digital marketing agencies.
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