Oftentimes, Oliver & Grimsley will hear from our trademark clients about letters they received regarding their marks coming from what appear to be official sources. These letters will ask that clients make a payment, upwards of hundreds of dollars or more, and indicating their marks are about to expire, or offering to provide some other service such as adding the mark to a directory. These letters are all under the guise of being from “The United States Trademark Center,” or even the “Patent and Trademark Office,” which are third parties that are unaffiliated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. When we hear from a client of ours about these letters, we know that the letters are from companies that have no connection with the official U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; rather, these are companies that are attempting to mislead new trademark applicants and registrants into thinking the notice is official, and trying to scam trademark holders into paying hundreds of dollars or more to them for unnecessary or overinflated services.
If you have filed for a federal trademark registration on your own, it can be very difficult to know what is legitimate. Any correspondence regarding deadlines is sent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and is typically sent via email with an @uspto.gov email address. If you have an attorney of record listed on your trademark application or registration, and your attorney is listed as the attorney of record and the correspondent on your application, official communications from the USPTO will go directly to your attorney of record on your behalf rather than being sent directly to you. Thus, in this situation, it should be a red flag if you receive a notice, as your attorney should be receiving all communications from the USPTO for you. In addition, these companies will sometimes try to use similar names to the USPTO to purposefully confuse any recipient. Below are some examples of scam companies that the USPTO lists on its website:
In an attempt to curb the growing number of these scams, one step that the USPTO is taking is seeking federal trademark registration of its own name. Applications were filed by the Department of Commerce on the USPTO’s behalf to register “USPTO” and “UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE,” as well as applications for two design marks in order to cover the USPTO’s logos. By seeking federal trademark protection, the USPTO hopes to broaden its legal options for dealing with such infringers, as it warns that these scams are becoming more sophisticated as they multiply.
When you receive unfamiliar notices like the examples listed above that request money or any solicitation for services regarding your trademark, it is important to look into who exactly is sending it. You can check the link provided by the USPTO to see if it is one of these misleading scams they are already aware of, or a call to a trademark attorney can also be very helpful, as they will almost immediately recognize a scam. Also, know that if you have an attorney listed as the attorney of record and correspondent on your trademark applications or registrations, you should not be receiving such correspondence, as your attorney would be receiving all official communications on your behalf. In addition, if you have an attorney overseeing your trademarks, your attorney can assist by keeping track of your deadlines for you.
HGTV’sFixer Upper TV Show provides a creative touch and teaches home owners how to extend individual passions into a surrounding living space from an artistic vantage point. Whether you’re into movies, music, or videogames, spice up your interior decorating in a fun and creative way with patents.
A patent is a protective property right relating to an invention and granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a limited time period. In exchange, the inventor is required to disclosure the invention to the public via the government application process. One step in the patent application process is submitting technical drawings of the invention. While fulfilling specialized requirements, often these drawings will also feature artistic characteristics and highlight the beauty of the subject matter, focusing in on the engineering construction of the invention and displaying a number of views.
In a recent segment of Fixer Upper on HGTV, a couple of music lovers created framed wall prints for a variety of patents, integrating their personal passion of musical instruments, including, a guitar, piano, and a drum.
With the variety of patent subject areas, plenty of options exist for decorating. Maybe you’re a fan of gaming platforms such as PlayStation, Nintendo, Wii, or XBox. If so, you could choose to frame a print of the original patent for nostalgia’s sake. Film or movie buff? Then select a motion picture, film projector patent. Or if you’re an individual inventor, you could decorate using your own patent!
Having practiced enough years I should be able to say I have seen it all, sadly, I realize I never will. Today is no different. Today I reviewed a letter to one of our clients with the salutation of “Dear Prospective Defendant:” It struck me immediately – was this necessary? Do lawyers need to be so antagonistic, bombastic or just plain abrasive, to start a letter this way?
Talk about sending the wrong message. The sender of this letter wants something from our client (money). They clearly wanted to signal they were willing to take additional action, but really, is it not better to ask nicely, even in a dispute? I did not even get to the first sentence of this letter without having formed a negative opinion of the sender. A person so insecure in their position to start a letter this way cannot possibly be taken seriously can they?
The letter also reminded me immediately of the direct opposite – a firm that from top to bottom is run by the most respectful, honest, trustworthy just plain good people you could ever find. The title of the person that greets you at the door to this business and answers your calls is the “Director of First Impressions” – and she is fantastic at her job (of making good impressions!). Leadership runs here from top to bottom. And yes, I will name them: Brooks Financial.
I never really put much stock in a person’s title – to me you have to earn it, so titles in many businesses are hollow and meaningless. But this one title has stuck with me because if we were all better at being directors of first impressions, we would all be better people, and most likely get a lot more of what we want from others. We would also be much better at resolving disputes.
We lawyers are called on often to deal with stressful situations where two or more parties are fighting – claiming one or the other violated some law or breached some agreement. Even in a dispute it is important to remain cordial and civil, doing so will be more likely to get the result you want.
Attorneys fees can seem expensive, particularly if you only concentrate on the rate charged. The other component of the rate is the time it takes to do a task or the experience level of the lawyer. A lawyer that charges $300 / hr and takes 1/2 hour to accomplish a task or that does not need to research the issue is more efficient than a lawyer or paralegal that bills at $150 / hr but takes 1.5 hours to accomplish the same task or has to research the issue. So, what makes your fees higher and how do you mitigate them?
Below is a list of tips that we have gathered over the last 30+ years in seeing some bills end up higher than others:
Organize your thoughts. Just as in business, a more organized plan will get you where you are going faster and more efficiently. Before you call your lawyer to “chit chat,” think through why you are calling, what information or advice you need, and be concise and to the point. We love to chit chat and we will buy you lunch and chit chat on legal issues for free, but when we are at work we generally bill.
Organize your documents. The least efficient and most expensive resource to help you organize your documents is a lawyer or paralegal. The more sorting, sifting, re-organizing and general searching we have to do, the more expensive it is for you.
In a deal, pin down the big issues. Transactionally, many clients think it is easy to shift a deal from one form to another (say from an asset to a stock purchase, or from a sublicense form of license to a order solicitation form) – it is not easy. In larger deals, particularly where significant tax issues arise, structuring the deal first is absolutely key. Use a non binding memorandum of understanding or letter of intent, or have a pre-call with your accountant or tax lawyer first. Once a deal is set in motion, if it changes midstream, it costs more. Consider if you got half way through college and changed your major from art history to electrical engineering. It takes more time.
Be responsive. Probably the single most significant complaint we lawyers have is when clients do not respond to issues that are on deadlines. We have to remind, and call, and email . . . and so on, and you are billed every time we have to do that, trying to get you to provide us the responses.
Don’t wait to the last minute. Many clients think that waiting to the last minute and giving the lawyer no real time to draft the document or resolve the issue makes the lawyer more efficient. It doesn’t! It makes us less efficient. Why? Because we are at some risk if later we miss some issue that we should have raised, so compressing the work makes us worry more and hence, be inefficient trying to make sure we have caught everything. Think about a construction project. Whenever one company falls behind and the others have to “rush” you end up with “compression damages” – enhanced costs. The same thing happens to lawyers.
Make decisions. Being indecisive can cause increased fees. We often need decisions to be made, sometimes quickly. When they are not made, they cause us to “start and stop.” Being busy, we cannot always remember where we stopped, so we have to go back and get up to speed. This costs us time and you money.
Work as a team. Your team includes your accountant, lawyer, banker and insurance agent, and sometimes a business consultant. These team members must work together and *communicate*. Now, sometimes this is hard for us because of the attorney client privilege. If we share attorney client privileged information with many of the team members, it may waive the privilege. But, there are still basic decisions and issues that can be shared and coordinated.
It may sound odd, but we actually want your fees to be as low as possible, and it sometimes troubles us that we have to charge for some things that have made us inefficient. So let us help you!