If you submit a new trademark application or if you include your email address on a prior trademark application, there is a good chance you will be scammed. Here is what to look for.

The scam usually looks like an official invoice sent to your email address. The invoice will display your trademark and it will provide legitimate information about your trademark – things like your application number, the classes of goods protected by your mark, and the filing date. It will look real, and it will ask you to pay an official-sounding fee, such as a publication fee or a maintenance fee.

Here is what a fake invoice looks like. This example is based on a real scam received by one of our clients; we removed the client’s information, but we kept everything else unchanged.

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If you receive an email or a letter that looks like this, show it to your attorney! Chances are quite high that the letter will be a scam and you should not pay attention to it!

Why are scams like this happening? The short answer is the US Patent & Trademark Office recently implemented some new rules that require the email address of a trademark owner to be included on new trademark applications, even if the trademark application is being filed by an attorney. That information can eventually become publicly available on the PTO’s website, which makes it easy for a scammer to discover those email addresses and send scam letters.

The good news is the PTO will normally email a trademark owner’s attorney before reaching out to the owner. So, if an attorney filed your trademark application and you receive an official-looking email about your trademark from someone other than your attorney, your first reaction should be: it is a scam!

Clyde Findley and Amber Orr are attorneys in the Intellectual Property Practice at Berenzweig Leonard. They can be reached [email protected] and [email protected].