How to avoid scams for trademark services

Many trademark owners look for assistance with navigating the trademark registration process. Some of those owners aren’t initially looking to register a trademark; they just want help with designing a logo or a website. While there are companies offering legitimate services, others use misleading online advertisements, impersonate the USPTO, or pretend to work with the USPTO to solicit their ultra low-cost logo design and trademark registration services.

Be wary of “low cost” registration services 

People are losing money and sometimes having their identities stolen when they use “low cost” logo design or trademark registration services. The companies behind these sites often either offer unnecessary services for exorbitant and inflated fees or offer fake services to get personal information, like email addresses and phone numbers. They then call, email, or send letters to further pressure people into additional services. This is one way scammers draw people into scams.

Check credentials of attorneys before you hire 

You expect trademark attorneys to help you register your trademark and follow USPTO rules. However, scammers exploit that trust and create websites to make it look like they are real law firms that employ U.S.-licensed attorneys. Scammers often charge exorbitant fees and may even file a trademark application for you; however, the registration that may result isn’t enforceable. Or scammers get you to send them your personal information, which they then use to send correspondence to scare you into using additional services. This is another way scammers draw you into scams.

Spotting a fake law firm

  • Only an attorney who is an active member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any U.S. state or territory can represent you in a trademark application, registration, or Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceeding at the USPTO. You can ask attorneys for their licensing credentials; if they avoid giving you their credentials, they may not be a real attorney or law firm. 

  • Genuine law firms won’t pressure you to use their services. If a law firm is using aggressive advertising or high-pressure sales tactics, they may not be a real law firm. 

  • Real law firms value effective and consistent communication. If a law firm is hard to reach, fails to respond quickly, or answers questions in a vague or confusing way, they may not be legitimate. 

  • Reputable law firms have transparent fee structures. You should know what you’ll be charged before you’re charged. If a law firm hesitates to clearly present their fees upfront, they may not be legitimate. You can always request a detailed breakdown of costs to understand where your money is going, and don’t take no for an answer. 

Watch out for red flags in trademark correspondence

You may be careful when you receive a random solicitation. However, scammers are doing more than offering unnecessary services with inflated fees. They know that the trademark process can be daunting for first time applicants and how protective brand owners are of their logos and designs, and they take advantage. They use your worries against you to obtain your personal information through “low cost” logo design services, offers of a “guaranteed” trademark registration, or fake attorney services.

Some ways scammers contact you 

  • Send emails or letters to brand owners and falsely claim that if they don’t federally register their trademark now, a third party will file a conflicting trademark that will prevent the owner from registering theirs. They threaten that the owner will lose their trademark rights or owe the third party large amounts of money. 

  • Send emails or letters to trademark owners with pending or abandoned applications and falsely state they found an issue that allows a third party to take over the owner’s trademark. They claim that if the owner doesn’t immediately respond to the email or letter, they’ll lose their trademark rights or the opportunity to revive their application. 

  • Send correspondence to trademark owners with registered trademarks and falsely state they must act urgently to maintain their registrations. The correspondence is often sent well before any real deadline, and the fees demanded are usually significantly higher than actual USPTO fees. 

  • Pretend to be from the USPTO and send fake office actions, compliance notices, and courtesy reminders that usually demand trademark owners respond within 24 to 72 hours, pay some sort of fee, and provide personal or sensitive information, such as date of birth or social security number.

You may think you’ll recognize these as scams, but some are really convincing. They have official looking letterhead, the USPTO seal on gold foil, the USPTO seal on a watermark, or the USPTO logo. They may even use the names of real USPTO forms or notices. 

So, what can you do? 

Check out examples of fraudulent or misleading solicitations to help you know what to be wary of.

Also, visit our Finding a trademark practitioner page to learn how to find attorneys who practice trademark law.