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Trademark tampering: What to do if you're a victim

When you get a letter from the IRS, the biggest mistake you can make is to ignore it. Issues with the tax collector are serious and only compound if disregarded. The same advice follows if you happen to be a trademark owner who recently received a notice from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The issue is a trademarks security breach.

The email alert carried a warning about an organized effort by unidentified entities to hijack applications and registered trademarks. Officials say the apparent intent of the perpetrators is to game brand registries managed by third parties, such as the one offered by Amazon. Under one hypothetical scenario, wrongdoers might hack the registries and hurt operations of a legitimate branded seller.

How it happened and what to do

A page on the USPTO website says the threat is small in scale, but still worrisome and that a fix is in the works. Officials say the hackers used the agency's Trademark Electronic Application System to initiate changes. The emails sent are part of a security system that notifies the primary person of record when changes are attempted.

If you received one of these notices and it took you by surprise, here's what you can do:

  1. Investigate at your end. Check the altered primary email address. If it belongs to a recognizable person in your company or an attorney you've worked with, get in touch with that person to determine if the change is on the up and up.

  2. If it's unauthorized:
    • You or your attorney should forward the email notice to [email protected].
    • Include your name and phone number and your attorney's.
    • List any serial or registration number(s) of affected marks.
    • The date and time of the email (though that should already be on the note).
    • Confirmation that you or your attorney are the proper person of record.
    • Any other information you think is relevant.

  3. Contact any third-party registries that you or your attorney are working with.

After taking those steps, the USPTO may suggest other actions for security's sake, and you should follow that advice.

Intellectual property protection is an essential element of business success and keeping a trademark secure is a vital component of the effort.

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