Foreign individuals and companies are trying to scam the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by improperly using U.S.-licensed attorneys’ names and bar credentials in trademark submissions or having U.S.-licensed attorneys sponsor USPTO.gov legal support staff accounts for people who are not the attorney’s support staff. Individuals or companies involved in these scams will either:
- Pay U.S.-licensed attorneys to use their name and bar registration details in trademark filings. The attorney has minimal, if any, participation in the application process.
- Pay U.S.-licensed attorneys to sponsor and verify legal support staff USPTO.gov accounts. The attorney does not employ or supervise the sponsored individual.
- Use U.S.-licensed attorney information without the U.S.-licensed attorney’s knowledge or permission. The attorney hasn’t authorized the use of their information.
Trademark filing firms engage in these scams to get around the USPTO’s requirement for foreign-domiciled filers to use a U.S.-licensed attorney and mandatory identity verification for USPTO.gov accounts.
Examples of foreign filing firms offering to pay U.S.-licensed attorneys
In both of the examples below, the U.S.-licensed attorney would have little to no involvement in the application process. This violates the USPTO’s rules, contributes to invalid filings, and harms the integrity of the trademark register.
Foreign law firm asking to use a U.S.-licensed attorney's credentials
Foreign attorney soliciting for USPTO.gov account sponsorship
Consequences of these scams
If any sponsored support staff accounts violate the Trademark Verified USPTO.gov Account Agreement, the USPTO will:
- Suspend the sponsored account
- Notify the sponsoring U.S.-licensed attorney that the sponsored account was suspended and that the attorney’s account is under review
- Have their USPTO.gov account suspended
- Be referred to the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) for investigation and discipline
Use the Trademark Decisions and Proceedings search tool to see sponsored account suspension orders. Also, review examples of final orders issued by OED for attorneys who violated the U.S. counsel rule:
Foreign filers, filings firms, and U.S.-licensed attorneys engaging in these scams may face an administrative sanctions process that can include:
- Blocking access to trademark electronic systems, including the electronic filing system (TEAS)
- Terminating applications and registrations affected by the scam
Report suspicious activity
U.S.-licensed attorneys who receive or learn of a solicitation like those above, please report it to TMScams@uspto.gov. If anyone knows of an attorney who is allowing others to use their information or signature, or is sponsoring a USPTO.gov account for someone who is not the attorney’s support staff, contact OED by emailing OED@uspto.gov.