The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is especially valid for trademark registration.

Unscrupulous foreign-based companies, even though they claim to be headquartered here, have been taking advantage of small businesses hoping to register trademarks. In response, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will begin requiring identity verification when filing for a trademark to protect businesses from fraudulent filers.

In the past few years, companies – with names like Trademark Terminal, Trademark Regal, and Trademark Falcon, to name just a few – have surfaced promising to register your trademark with USPTO in under 10 minutes for $99. Not surprisingly, they have had quite a few small business customers eager to register a new trademark at a bargain rate. It turns out not to be a bargain!

These companies, that can be tracked to Russia, China, Pakistan, and other foreign countries, file the registration using the small business’ name, but then use fraudulent information in the rest of the application, essentially stealing the identity and trademark of the small business. According to the USPTO, which has flagged nearly 20,000 invalidly filed application in the past seven months alone, “these scammers fraudulently file improper submissions that include false signatures, false addresses, false claims of use required to obtain and maintain a registration, and false or hijacked U.S. attorney credentials.”

To combat this fraud, the USPTO will begin requiring all trademark filers to verify their identities when filing electronic trademark forms. This initiative, which has been in place on a voluntary basis since January of this year, will be in effect starting August 6, and will include options for both paper and electronic identity verification.

Part of the new protocol for filing electronically either can be matching an uploaded selfie with a valid government-issued ID card or undertaking a brief video interview with a USPTO representative. Both the selfie and the video will be deleted after a specified time period (24 hours for the selfie, and 30 days for the video). Of course, paper verifications are still being accepted. Filers who already have a verified ID can use their existing accounts for future filings.

If you have any questions or concerns about filing a trademark registration, an IP attorney at Ference and Associates, LLC, will be happy to speak with you.

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Ference & Associates is a Pittsburgh, PA based law firm with a global client base. Our attorneys focus on patent, trademark, and copyright law.

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