What we’re doing to protect the register
We investigate suspected fraud, unauthorized practice of law, and abuse of our rules. We look to see if violations are unintentional, or essentially simple and honest mistakes, or whether the behavior is intended to defraud our customers and the integrity of the trademark register. If violations appear to defraud our customers, we coordinate with other federal agencies, such as the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), to fight back.
We also help raise awareness of fraudulent activity by providing education and outreach about known scams. These are some of the other things we’re doing in addition to working with law enforcement agencies:
The Post Registration Audit program promotes the accuracy and integrity of the trademark register. We randomly audit registration maintenance filings to help preserve the trademark register as a reliable reflection of trademarks used in commerce. As of January 2, 2021, we’re charging a per class deletion fee every time a registrant files a maintenance declaration that, upon examination or audit, is found to be deficient as to use claims. You can avoid this fee by filing an accurate maintenance declaration that does not include any goods or services for which the mark is no longer in use and/or filing a $0 fee Section 7 amendment to delete any unused goods or services from the registration outside of the time period for filing and examination of the maintenance declaration.
We increased our scrutiny of specimens and issued guidance to our examining attorneys, empowering them to issue specimen refusals if any legitimacy concerns are identified. We’re also implementing innovative solutions to identify doctored or fake specimens.
Special task force
We implemented an internal task force responsible for investigating possible scams and evaluating whether sanctions are necessary to address them. The task force may also refer matters of interest to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) for attorney misconduct or to law enforcement if criminal activity is suspected.
Representation by a U.S.-licensed attorney
We started requiring foreign-domiciled applicants or registrants to be represented by a U.S.-licensed attorney. This rule was designed to improve the quality of submissions by U.S. attorneys who are bound by ethical rules to follow the USPTO rules of professional conduct and their state bar codes of conduct. Attorneys suspected of misconduct may be referred to the OED.
Mandatory login on MyUSPTO is now required for anyone filing an electronic form. There are two additional phases to our mandatory login process, which include identity verification and role-based access to further increase our database security.
Trademark Modernization Act
The Trademark Modernization Act (TMA) went into effect December 18, 2021. It gives the USPTO and trademark owners additional tools to maintain a robust trademark system and better protect the integrity of the trademark register. The USPTO began accepting petitions requesting institution of proceedings for reexamination or expungement on December 27, 2021. On December 1, 2022, the implementation of the shorter response period for office actions went into effect.