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Have you ever received in the mail what appears to be an invoice for trademark-related services you did not request? If so, hopefully you contacted your attorney before paying it. This is the modus operandi of several scam operators who target trademark owners. But now there may be one fewer of these in the marketplace.
In October, Artashes Darbinyan was indicted on multiple counts of mail fraud and identity theft allegedly committed in the course of defrauding trademark applicants and registrants. According to the indictment, Mr. Darbinyan operated two companies that solicited trademark holders through mass mailings that appeared official and promised trademark monitoring services and customs recordation services for a fee. Though he collected the funds, he provided no such services.
Unfortunately, the foregoing scam is but one variation on a popular theme, so be wary. If you are the owner of a pending trademark application or issued registration and you receive a document that appears to be an invoice for trademark related services from someone other than your attorney, consult with your counsel before paying it. You can also check the US PTO website to see whether the invoice comes from a company that appears on the US PTO warning list: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/non-uspto-solicitations.
The US PTO does not investigate claims related to such scams or participate in legal proceedings against accused scam operators, but it does attempt to educate and warn the public about the scams. Unfortunately, the need for this education exists because the scams targeting trademark owners persist and evolve from year to year. Hopefully, indictments like the one above will have a deterrent effect. In the meantime, read correspondence carefully, check official government pages, and consult with trusted trademark counsel before taking any action in response to a suspicious looking invoice for trademark services you did not request.