The increasing number of trademark government offices that are uploading trademark information to publicly accessible government databases has been a positive step in furthering awareness of the importance and interest that trademark owners should have in protecting their marks. It allows, among other benefits, for greater transparency, offering trademark holders easy access to their trademark information and enabling them to monitor their marks without necessarily having to go through a local attorney or agent. However, like in most things, with the good comes the bad.
Trademark owners are increasingly being targeted by spam messages, supposedly sent by government offices, alerting them of the necessity of paying additional fees to have their trademark published or renewed, or to definitely register a mark in process. Charlatans send communications directly to trademark holders, obtaining precise trademark and contact information simply by accessing the public online records of the different national trademark offices, making their fraud seem legitimate to unknowing, ingenuous trademark owners.
Numerous kinds of trademark frauds are constantly appearing, from imposters that masquerade as official government agencies, to tricksters whose aim is to mislead trademark owners into thinking that “registering” or publishing a trademark through private publications will somehow offer it protection (*cough cough* EPTR trademark register... you are not nice people). However, one particular kind of bad faith communication has been quite successful in spooking our clients into at least contacting us, and has surely frightened others into unknowingly contacting bad-faith scammers - such scum surely deserves the use of a pleonasm.
Information regarding holders of domain names (e.g. .com, .net, .biz) is easy to access, and therefore has always been used by scammers. Many domain name and trademark holders are receiving emails from companies “informing” them that they have been asked by a third party to register domain names and trademarks identical to one’s mark (usually in China). However, out of the goodness of their heart, these people have decided to contact the real owner in order to alert them. The warning of course really is only done with the purpose of pressuring one to hire their services out of fear.
Example of the content of trademark spam emails:
This is a confirmation letter regarding registration of your company name [trademark], please read it carefully. We are an agency engaging in registering brand name and domain names. Today, our center received an application from [name of a random company]- and they apply to register [trademark] as their brand name and some top-level domain names (.CN .HK etc). We found the main body of domain names is same as your company name. I am not sure about the relationship between you and them. Please tell me whether or not your company authorizes them to register names.
We are dealing with the application and we need to confirm whether you have authorized them? If you don't authorize them, please reply me an e-mail. Looking forward to your reply.
People who make the mistake of answering these emails are then hassled for weeks and bombarded with emails and phone calls.
All in all, whether one is supposedly contacted from the registrar’s office asking for the payment of fees, by third parties with convincing arguments that paying them to publish one’s trademarks in a bogus magazine is advisable or one is contacted by a “good” Samaritan alerting them that someone else is registering their trademark or domain, and that they are willing to help, one should always be hesitant.
If one is fearful of their domain names one should contact their registrar of choice. If one believes their trademarks may be in danger, the first step one should take is to contact a trademark professional (Hey! Why not give us a try?) in order to determine the proper and most appropriate steps (if any steps are indeed necessary) to protect or maintain one’s trademarks.
iGERENT offers trademark services in more than 180 countries. For further information contact us.
Author: Conrad Fahrenkrug Attorney-at-law @ iGERENT