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Thursday Jun 30, 2022

Safeguarding the trademark community against fraud with identity verification

Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and David Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks at the USPTO

woman with glasses smiling and looking at an electronic tablet

Trademark Terminal. Trademark Regal. Trademark Falcon.

Most folks in the trademark community know these names and the havoc they’ve wreaked on legitimate filers, scamming some out of tens of thousands of dollars or hijacking identities to file fraudulent submissions to disadvantage competitors. Their unscrupulous business operations are among the primary reasons why, starting August 6, 2022, the USPTO is taking the important and necessary step of requiring all trademark filers to verify their identities as a condition for filing electronic trademark forms. This initiative, which includes options for both paper and automated identification verification, is key to our comprehensive strategy to protect our trademark customers and the integrity of our trademark register. 

Initially a voluntary option, our identity verification program started in January 2022 to better serve our legitimate customers and help prevent bad actors from violating our USPTO Rules of Practice and website terms of use. Since 2016, we have seen significant increases in fraudulent trademark filings, as well as in the number of foreign scammers from China, Pakistan, and elsewhere outside the U.S. These scammers fraudulently file improper submissions that include false signatures, false addresses, false claims of use required to obtain and maintain a registration, and false or hijacked U.S. attorney credentials. In fact, in the past seven months alone, the USPTO has sanctioned bad actors responsible for nearly 20,000 invalidly filed applications. 

During the voluntary period, we received thoughtful feedback and suggestions from stakeholders on ways to improve our automated verification process. We listened, and we have updated our original program to include more options and features for trademark filers—both online and by paper. These options include an online program where, after a customer’s identity is verified through the matching of an uploaded selfie and a copy of their government-issued ID (1:1 matching), the selfie is automatically deleted from the system after 24 hours. Further, if a customer does not want to use the automated 1:1 facial matching option, they can verify their identity via a brief video interview with an online representative. The video will be deleted within thirty days of the interview. We are also continuing to offer the paper process for verification. Filers who already have ID verified USPTO.gov accounts for their patent submissions can use their existing accounts for trademark filings as well.

We believe in customer choice and in tools that are equitable and secure. We are gratified that more than 58,000 trademark filers have already chosen to verify their identities through this program. We will continue to listen and learn from all those who believe in preserving an effective and secure trademark register and want to work with us to protect our trademark community. Further, we will soon be issuing a Federal Register Notice that provides additional clarity and context on the user roles required to verify filers’ identities and help maintain a seamless verification process. We welcome stakeholders to visit our ID verification program page to learn more about our program.

It is our privilege to serve our nation’s trademark community, and it is a privilege we do not take lightly. As we continue to develop our Register Protection program to get ahead of the problem, we will also continue to do everything in our power to thwart those looking to scam our customers. That includes issuing sanctions orders and listing known bad actors on our website. We also support our trademark customers and those seeking to protect their brands by providing more information on our processes and resources through programs like our Trademark Basics Boot Camp series and in our new Trademark Registration Toolkit. And, of course, by working every day for American business owners. 

Comments:

"Further, we will soon be issuing a Federal Register Notice that provides additional clarity and context on the user roles required to verify filers’ identities and help maintain a seamless verification process." If your Notice is available can you please email me a link?

Posted by Bruce Margulies on July 15, 2022 at 03:25 PM EDT #

I received notification that I now need to verify my identity for my business (Clear Case Grants). Is that correct? I'm having trouble understanding whether or not I need to take action and, if so, what and how.

Posted by Kim Oren on August 04, 2022 at 06:35 PM EDT #

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