Recently, a client contacted me and asked whether his company should pay an invoice that appeared to be from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
FOS had recently submitted a trademark application for this client.
The top of the invoice stated “Important Notification Regarding Your Federal Trademark.” The invoice was from the “Trademark Compliance Office” and stated that $385.00 was “due now” for a “processing fee” and “intellectual property rights recordation.”
The invoice referred to the client’s specific trademark information. Given the specific information and references to the USPTO, the invoice appeared to come from a government office.
However, the invoice was a scam.
Once I read the small print on the invoice, it was apparent that the “Trademark Compliance Office” had nothing to do with any government agency, and the fee was for useless services.
This incident is an example of a growing trend. Several legal publications and law firm websites have begun to report similar incidents.
Scammers create misleading notices and invoices which appear to come from a government agency and attempt to gain payments for useless services.
A client who has retained FOS or another law firm to handle intellectual property matters (patents, trademarks and copyrights) should expect to hear from the law firm regarding filing fees, renewal fees or other fees related to the maintenance of the intellectual property.
Thus, any invoices sent directly to a business, and not the filing law firm, are automatically suspect. If you get one, send it to your FOS attorney for review.
Intellectual property is not the only business asset subject to these types of scams. Businesses should be on guard against similar scams unrelated to intellectual property. For example, scammers may try similar tricks as to corporate registrations, government licenses and tax matters.
Bottom line: All invoices seeking fees for government entities should be closely examined. If you have any question, contact your FOS attorneys.