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Let’s state the obvious: there is a big, bad world of companies that prey on honest online sellers seeking to protect their product/brand with a trademark or patent. If you haven’t already received a letter trying to scam you into money, just wait. Based on our experience, it will happen to you eventually!
How does it work?
Scammers typically start by conducting a search – and heads up! These searches can be nationwide or worldwide. Watch the below video to hear about a letter that one of our U.S. clients received from a scamming company in Europe.
They will look up all of your public information – your Trademark #, Application #, Application Date, Registration # and Date, then slap that information on a letter and insist that you owe them money for something (i.e., a filing fee). The letters we’ve received over the years usually say that payment is needed to finalize the trademark/patent that we applied for.
And these letters are no joke! During our 30 years in this industry, there have been a few instances when we’ve had to reach out to our lawyers because we can’t even tell if the letter is real or fake.
One of these companies is called the Trademark and Patent Publication (TPP), based in Poland. They send millions – that’s right, millions – of letters to applicants all over the world. The tricky part? TPP is a real company. If you check the small print and their website, they aren’t technically doing anything illegal – you pay a “filing fee” for your trademark and they will include you in their database.
But the claim that you owe them money is completely inauthentic, and their database is an irrelevant facade. We’ve asked around, and it seems like most people are receiving a letter from TPP within a week or two after they submitted a trademark/patent application. We’ve seen tons of these letters – some are asking for $200 or $500, or most recently, one of our clients received a letter demanding payment of $1,560!
This scam is real, people!
Here are 3 resources that will help you avoid a trademark/patent scam:
- The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a colossal archive of Sample Misleading Invoices. Please note the tabs that delineate the year – their archive goes all the way back to 2009, and they are continually updating their 2016 list.
- The European Patent Office released a fantastic article in July 2016 about trends they’ve observed in companies that scam people. They give you 7 tips on what to look out for, what is and isn’t authentic, and tons of links to other resources if you have more questions.
- Watch this video from the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), or read the script from the video. This is an extremely helpful overview of the bigger problem at hand!
Above all: NEVER PAY A MYSTERIOUS INVOICE. If you’re even the slightest bit concerned, please use the 3 resources above or contact your attorney!
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