Another day at work is over…another handful of client questions about solicitations they received via e-mail or postal mail regarding trademark related services offered for sale.
I tell them the same thing I always do…send me a copy and I’ll glance at it for you, but the chances are that it is either an outright scam, or an offer for services they probably don’t need (e.g., the client I talked with last week that received a solicitation that included an offer to register their Service Mark with U.S. Customs).
It makes you wonder…how many trademark owners fall victim to these scams every year?
At least the old “Chinese domain name” scam looks fishy. But, the trademark service solicitations are a different thing. They’re very carefully drafted, clearly intending to either (1) trick the trademark owner into thinking the communication came from the Trademark Office itself, or (2) scare the trademark owner into thinking they need to take immediate action (and send the solicitation firm immediate payment).
When the problem was invention promotion companies, the Federal Trade Commission and USPTO stepped in and addressed it, issuing a number of different publications (such as THIS ONE, and THIS ONE, THIS ONE, and THIS ONE), and promulgating regulations/prosecuting the crooks accordingly. Of course, that wasn’t until hundreds of millions of dollars had been conned out of small inventors that action was taken. But at least they did something.
Where’s the USPTO on this issue (other than creating a short warning published on the USPTO website)? Where’s the FTC?
Other trademark attorneys are sick and tired of the inaction. They’ve decided to take matters into their own hands. Erik M. Pelton has started a petition. Another law firm (Leason Ellis LLP in New York) has actually filed a civil lawsuit against one solicitor.
At least one state, California, has a state statute meant to address issues like this: California Civil Code Section 1716. Sadly, my state (Idaho) doesn’t have such a statute. Does yours?
It’s time for trademark attorneys to start asking their clients to ALWAYS send copies of such solicitations to them. Then, we need to start forwarding them (with the client’s permission, of course) to our state representatives, Governors, and state Attorney Generals (along with a copy of the California statute), asking for similar “payment solicitation” legislation to be added to our respective states’ codes.