It is important to remember that the records kept by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are public. Anyone with the time and inclination to search the USPTO’s database is free to call up information related to any registered trademark or pending application – information which includes the trademark owner’s name and address.
Several private companies take advantage of this availability of information to advertise trademark-related services in an arguably deceiving manner. The services offered by these companies range from listing trademarks in certain directories to searching for confusingly similar marks; some of the services are legitimate and may be helpful, while some offer little utility at all.
The advertisements themselves, however, are often designed to resemble official documentation: barcodes, acronyms, and seemingly nonsensical form numbers abound. Disclaimers that the sender is not related to the USPTO are typically in fine print. With this exception, and for lack of a better term, the solicitations appear very “governmental.”
Several of our clients have received such solicitations (examples here). The forms typically advise the recipient that the onus is on them to protect their registered (or soon-to-be-registered) mark, and that the USPTO will, in general, not hesitate to register trademarks which are confusingly similar to the recipient’s mark (an assertion not entirely true).
While some of these private companies may offer services of some value, we caution trademark owners to be skeptical of unsolicited mailings regarding their trademarks, and to seek legal advice before sending money in response to any form. Furthermore, our clients are reminded that the USPTO sends all official documentation to us, as attorneys of record, and not directly to the trademark owner.