In late January 2022, the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) canceled more than 5,500 trademark applications filed falsely and fraudulently by companies and websites controlled and operated by a Pakistani company now under investigation by the Pakistan government. These companies and their websites offered “low-cost trademark filing” services. But the websites and the services were fraudulent. The three main companies (and their officers, employees, agents and affiliates) named in the case were Abtach, Ltd., 360 Digital Marketing LLC and Retrocube LLC. But, as noted, the companies were all controlled by the same Pakistani entity and these companies, in turn, controlled numerous subsidiaries and operated scores of websites across the internet offering low cost trademark filings and processing services.
As can be seen from Exhibit A to the USPTO’s Final Order, some of the trademark applications had already been completed and the trademark had been registered. The USPTO chose not to cancel the registered trademark, but cautioned owners of those trademarks that the fraudulent nature of their applications could subject those trademarks to legal challenge and potential invalidity in the future.
The actions taken by the USPTO in this matter are extraordinary and unusual. It is a reminder that hiring competent and experienced US trademark attorneys is crucial to ensuring that your registered trademark is valid and legal. Fraud and falsification during the application process can invalidate a trademark registration.
As described in the Final Order, here are some of the many types of fraud that resulted in cancellation of the trademark applications:
- Use of websites holding themselves out as owned by US-based companies even though each website was, in actuality, under the primary control of Abtach, Ltd., located in Pakistan
- False advertisement of low filing fees and fake promises of faster-than-normal registrations to lure potential customers
- Falsification of USPTO application filing receipts and invoices for the purpose of charging inflated fees — for example, customers were charged “reimbursement” fees for filing an application with multiple classes of goods and services; but, in reality, the applications were single-class applications
- Sending of fake and fraudulent “USPTO demand letters” threatening legal action if customers did not register their logos and trademarks in order to pressure and coerce customers into buying filing and other services; no such letters are ever sent by the USPTO
- Falsification of USPTO filing documents and attestations
- Forged signatures on USPTO filing forms
- Breach of USPTO website terms of service by allowing multiple personnel access to filing and document-upload accounts which is not allowed
- Falsely claiming that processing services could be provided even though such services could not be provided since no employees of the companies were licensed US attorneys
- Falsely charging for processing services that could not be provided since no employees of the companies were licensed US attorneys
- Intentionally making of “mistakes” on trademark applications to trigger the need for “processing” and “correction services” for which customers were charged even though such services could not be provided since no employees of the companies were licensed US attorneys
If any of these actions have occurred during your trademark application process, you may have been the victim of a scam. It may be wise to retain a trademark attorney to verify your application and registration. For more information or if you have questions about creating and registering a trademark, contact the trademark lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.