Companies in California and around the country obtain trademarks to protect the words, phrases and symbols they use to identify their products and brands. Trademark owners must submit what is known as a “Declaration of Use” to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after five or six years to inform the agency that the mark is still in use, and they must renew their trademark every 10 years. Renewing trademarks can be expensive if the mark is used on a wide range of products, and this makes trademark scams extremely attractive to people with criminal intent.

Bogus renewal letters

Sending out bogus renewal letters to trademark owners is one of the most common forms of intellectual property fraud. The criminals who perpetrate these scams usually try to do everything they can to make their letters look like official communications. The letters contain detailed information about trademarks, appear to come from government agencies and often bear official-looking seals and barcodes.

Telltale signs

Trademark scam letters are rarely able to withstand close scrutiny. They often contain spelling or grammar mistakes, and a simple internet search may be all that is needed to expose the “agencies” they appear to be from as fakes. Other trademark letters and notices to be wary of include offers to monitor protected intellectual property against trademark infringement, invitations to join private trademark registries and offers to register trademarks overseas.

Protecting intellectual property

Intellectual property owners may be wise to refer all letters they receive about their trademarks, copyrights, patents or trade secrets to attorneys with experience in this area. In addition to identifying scams preventing fraud, attorneys may ensure that renewal paperwork is submitted in a timely fashion and initiate legal action to protect brands when trademarked words, phrases or symbols are used without permission.