Trademark Owner Abuses

The seriousness of this topic became very apparent to me when I recently received in the mail the "Certificate Suitable for Framing" (my words) of a newly registered trademark I had applied for on behalf of a client. This event happens often, and my routine is simply to immediately email the client that it has arrived, made a copy for my files, put the follow up dates in my database, and mail the original to the client. But something was different. for the first time, in the government envelope, printed on very bright orange paper, was a warning: WARNING FROM THE USPTO CONCERNING UNOFFICIAL TRADEMARK SOLICITATIONS.


At least a dozen times in the past year I have received calls, faxes, or e-mails from clients asking about documents described below, and I advise them to toss or delete, and to NOT send any money. The rest of this article consists of the Warning - unedited - as it is now being sent with new Trademark Certificates, directly from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Please be aware that private companies not associated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) often use trademark application and registration information from the USPTO's databases to mail or e-mail trademark-related solicitations. These may include offers: (1) for legal services; (2) for trademark monitoring services; (3) to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and (4) to "register" trademarks in the company's own private registry.


These companies may use names that resemble the USPTO name, including, for example, the term "United States" or "U.S." Increasingly, some of the more unscrupulous companies attempt to make their solicitations mimic the look of official government documents rather than the look of a typical commercial or legal solicitation by emphasizing official government data like the USPTO application serial number, the registration number, the International Class(es), filing dates, and other information that is publicly available from USPTO records. Many refer to other government agencies and sections of the U.S. Code. Most require "fees" to be paid.


Some applicants and registrants have reported paying fees to these private companies, mistakenly thinking that they were paying required fees to the USPTO. So, be sure to read trademark-related communications carefully before making a decision about whether to respond. All official correspondence will be from the "United States Patent and Trademark Office" in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain ""


If you receive a trademark-related solicitation that you believe is deceptive, you may file an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), at Although the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, it may institute, as the nation's consumer protection agency, investigations and prosecutions based on widespread complaints about particular companies or business practices.


The USPTO encourages recipients of misleading communications to contact the USPTO about them by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . When notifying the USPTO about a misleading communication, please also:


  1. Include a copy of the misleading communication (including the envelope it came in) if available;
  2. Indicate whether the recipient thought the communication was an official U.S. government communication or had to ask an attorney or the USPTO whether it was legitimate; 
  3. Indicate whether fees were mistakenly paid in response to the communication and, if so, provide a copy of the cancelled check. Please also specify what services, if any, were provided in exchange for the payment made.


Gerald P. Nehra is a private practice Attorney at Law. He is one of only a few attorneys nationwide whose practice is devoted exclusively to direct selling and multilevel marketing legal issues. He began his legal career in 1970, and from 1982 to 1991 was the Director of the Amway Corporation Legal Division. He can be reached at Nehra & Waak, Attorneys at Law, 1710 Beach Street, Muskegon, Michigan 49441, 231-755-3800    231-755-3800      . His e-mail address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You are invited to visit the firm web site at




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