Beware of Trademark "Publication Services"

When a trademark application is filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) all information contained therein becomes public. For this reason, an applicant should not provide any information in the application which they want to keep private. The applicant should use a Post Office Box or mail service, and set up a new phone line (like a free number provided by Google Voice). Also, they should set up an email address specifically for the application.

Before moving on, please keep in mind that all communication from the USPTO is via email (if the application was filed electronically) or official snail mail. The USPTO will never use a third party to correspond with an applicant.

Be wary of any snail mail correspondence about your application

The main problem with trademark application information being public is spam. The applicant will receive spam snail mail and emails from services purporting to provide trademark “publication services” and demanding payment of thousands of dollars. These publication services offer to place your mark in their “private database,” whatever that means. What these services boil down to is charging thousand of dollars in exchange for nothing.

These notices usually state that the publication service is not affiliated with the USPTO and not related to publication of the mark in the USPTO Gazette. However, this information is provided in the oft-overlooked fine print, and can be easily missed by the average applicant.

USPTO cautions against misleading letters and services

The USPTO cautions applicants to be especially wary of publication service letters—such as the ones sent by ITP Services—which, according to the USPTO, are not legitimate and “potentially misleading.” The USPTO recommends any applicant who receives such a letter file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The USPTO even provides examples of misleading letters on their website, as well as guidance on how to avoid illegitimate services.

Conclusion

Trademark application information is public, and this information is often used by illegitimate services to take advantage of applicants. The USPTO will only communicate via email (if the application was filed electronically), or through official snail mail. The USPTO does not use third parties for correspondence. Any correspondence which is not from the USPTO is likely misleading and can be ignored.

The USPTO provides guidance on “potentially misleading” correspondence with examples misleading letters. According to the USPTO, if you believe trademark correspondence is misleading, you should file a complaint with the FTC. As always, if you are unsure about a letter or offer please contact an attorney.