For the benefit of Ocean Tomo and our clients, I follow trademark related news and developments within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the courts, other organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Licensing Executives Society (LES), and in commerce generally. There are over 2.9 million marks registered and actively maintained in the federal register. In fiscal year 2021, trademark filings reached a record high of approximately 943,000. The metaverse has been a hot topic in intellectual property as of late – Nike, McDonalds, American Express, and the U.S. Air Force are just a few of the entities that have registered marks for virtual goods and virtual spaces. Even Calvin Broadus, otherwise known as Snoop Dogg, has filed trademark applications for the “Uncle Snoop” mark related to online retail store services featuring virtual goods. Although each trademark and the context surrounding its use are unique, everyone from IP practitioners to C-suite executives would be well served to follow trademark related news and developments.
According to the USPTO, since 2016, there has been a considerable increase in fraudulent trademark filings and trademark related scams. As reported on the USPTO’s “Scam Awareness” webpage, such scams involve private companies, who are not affiliated with the USPTO, contacting applicants and registrants (sometimes using official looking documents) to solicit bogus fees:
Unfortunately, there are many businesses that are contacting trademark applicants and registrants and attempting to get them to pay fees and for services that are not needed or required, or to pay inflated fees, or to provide services which they, as non-attorneys, are not authorized to provide. Many are simply scams, and they are on the rise. Even if some are offering legitimate services, we do not endorse any of these private companies sending these solicitations, and you are not required to use them.
As part of the USPTO’s comprehensive strategy to thwart such fraud, as of August 6, the USPTO is requiring all electronic trademark filers to verify their identity as a condition of filing. The electronic verification involves providing a “selfie” that can be matched to a government issued ID. Alternatively, filers can complete a brief video interview with an online representative. A paper verification option is also available for those that do not wish to verify electronically. More information about the identity verification process is available from the USPTO.