Beware of Your Mailbox
Popular scams can be lurking in your mailbox, designed to prey on unrepresented or under-represented people. Using information from public records, available on-line from government authorities ranging from the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") to the Secretary of State, mass mailings are generated that offer "services" that range from fictitious, unnecessary, or easily obtainable at a lesser cost. These fraudulent or misleading mailings count on the recipient's eagerness to "take care of business" by paying someone to handle what appears to be an important legal matter. A busy business owner likely welcomes the unexpected offer of assistance in trimming his or her "to-do" list.

Trademark applications filed with the USPTO often result in the applicant receiving mail from exotic locales such as Czechia or Hungary. These mailings purport to provide international registration of the trademark for a fee--usually in the thousands of dollars. Of course, no such international registration will occur, and good luck with trying to recover the fees from eastern Europe. The USPTO has a careful, systematic process for trademark registration in the U.S. that usually takes about a year. A promise of worldwide registration by simply sending a check should always be suspect.

Trademark registration renewal dates are also popular subjects for less-than scrupulous mailings. After the initial registration, a registered mark must be renewed between the fifth and sixth anniversary of the registration date by filing a "Statement of Use", certifying that the trademark is still being used in connection with the products and/or services described in the original registration. However, the fee requested in the unsolicited mailing for handling this filing can be more than the professional fees that would be incurred if an attorney handled the filing. I have seen a trademark "service" accept payment for handling a renewal, throw in for good measure some e-mails requesting unnecessary information, and never file the renewal. Fortunately, in that instance, the client asked me to respond to the request for information and the scam was recognized. When we confirmed that the renewal was not submitted even after providing a response, we were able to timely submit the required Statement of Use and preserve the registration. If the client had counted on the renewal being filed as promised, the registration would have been lost.

Similar scams involving "assistance" with State filings for entities are also out there. I cannot say that each and every mailed offer to handle entity filings is not legitimate, but the risk is that, while the filing deadline is real, the required filing is not made after the business has paid both the amount of the government filing fee and the service fee, resulting in adverse consequences to the entity.

Often the mailings described in this article have fine print disclaimers that they "are not a government agency" or similar import. However, if there is any suspicion or question regarding the legitimacy of a communication or the need for the services offered, you should contact your attorney and obtain an expeditious answer.

5301 Spring Valley Rd.

Suite 200

Dallas, Texas 75254


Richard P. Bobowski
Richard P. Bobowski practices in the areas of business law, real estate, and commercial transactions, including entity documentation, sales and acquisitions. Mr. Bobowski graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois in 1983, receiving his B.S. in Liberal Arts and Sciences. He received his J.D. in 1986 from Southern Methodist University School of Law. He is licensed to practice in Texas and the Northern District of Texas. Mr. Bobowski is an active member of the Rotary Club of Park Cities and Knights of Columbus.