The USPTO Sanctions Trademark Filing Companies for Fraud
1000s OF CLIENT APPLICATIONS BECOME INVALIDATED
In recent years, many individuals have started their own businesses and learned about the value of trademarks. As the number of individual and small business owners rose, so did the number of copycats, product listing hijackers, and fraudulent trademark filing companies. Unfortunately, individual and small business owners have been those most impacted by these fraudulent actors.
In one of the largest anti-fraud offensives launched by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on January 25, 2022, the USPTO issued an order sanctioning three “low-cost” brand development and trademark filing companies – ABTACH Ltd., 360 Digital Marketing LLC, and Retrocube LLC – for misleading trademark owners and the USPTO.
In the scathing order for sanctions, the USPTO confirmed that the respondents engaged in an egregious scheme to deceive and defraud both the USPTO and individual applicants in more than 5,500 trademark applications, including the unauthorized practice of law and providing false, fictitious or fraudulent information in violation of the USPTO’s rules of practice.
What were the Respondent’s Acts?
Respondents operated dozens of websites offering logo design services and low-cost assistance filing trademark applications. The websites held themselves out as U.S.-based companies, even though each website was, in reality, under the control of Abtach, Ltd., a company in Pakistan presently under investigation by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency.
Respondents would solicit parties interested in filing trademark applications with unrealistically low fees and timeframes. However, when it came time to file the trademark applications, these companies charged incorrect – and higher – fees. For example, the companies filed single-class applications with the USPTO, but charged their customers for multiple-class applications, forging the USPTO filing receipts. Not only did the companies charge fake fees, but they also forged USPTO documents – sending fake demand letters to their customers threatening legal action if their customers did not choose to register a trademark with them, filing applications with mistakes on purpose to force customers into paying for services they should not have needed, and falsely filing applications as a representative of their customer’s company.
Respondents would also hide their improper conduct by providing false email addresses for their clients in the applicant/owner section – an email that was actually controlled by Respondent – in order to intercept any communications sent to the applicant/owner by the USPTO.
Respondents also intentionally filed applications with errors in order to cause the USPTO to issue refusals, creating unnecessary delay in the prosecution of the applications. In addition, Respondents would then charge their clients additional fees to respond to the office actions. At all times, as these companies were not U.S.-based law firms employing lawyers, they were not authorized to file trademark applications on behalf of these individuals and small business owners.
The Respondents were engaged in a widespread, intentional, and coordinated effort to defraud both applicants and the USPTO.
The Bad Acts of Respondents Imputed to Applicants
Respondents filed thousands of applications and other submissions through the USPTO.gov website with false information. The USPTO found that Respondents’ actions caused and will continue to cause harm to thousands of applicants. Not only have Respondents caused unnecessary delay, created disruption for other applicants whose applications were refused on the basis of Respondents’ fraudulent applications, but Respondents also forced applicants to spend more money to secure applications. Going forward, any application filed by these three companies will be rejected by the USPTO as unauthorized practice of law.
While individual applicants were likely unaware of the nature and scope of Respondents’ misconduct, the acts of the Respondents were unfortunately, also attributed to the applications. Unfortunately for the individuals who filed their applications through these websites, the USPTO has ordered that each customer that hired these organizations must bear the weight of their choice of trademark filing company, and will not receive refunds of filing fees, and in fact, must re-file their trademark applications.
Practical Pointers for Trademark Filings
When seeking to file a federal trademark application, you should find a qualified legal professional based in the United States to assist you.
If you were affected by this issue, we at MAVEN® IP are trained and qualified U.S. trademark attorneys and we are available to assist you with a new trademark filing. We are transparent about our fees, we provide free phone consultations to secure accurate information for your trademark application, and our goal is to file trademark applications that will pass the USPTO examination.
It can be difficult to navigate the requirements for filing a trademark. We have extensive experience in trademark application filing. We would be happy to schedule a free 15-minute consultation to discuss your legal needs. Please use our contact form, or the consultation links in our attorney’s profiles, if you need further assistance.