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Mail Fraud for Fake Trademark Renewal Notices

Posted by Thomas P. Howard | Sep 17, 2021 | 0 Comments

By James Juo.

The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced on September 15, 2021 that Viktors Suhorukovs, a citizen of Latvia, has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison and ordered to pay over $4.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to mail fraud in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud owners of U.S. trademark registrations.

Mr. Suhorukovs had established companies named Patent and Trademark Office, LLC, and Patent and Trademark Bureau, LLC—names that closely resemble the official name of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), the government agency that grants U.S. trademark registrations. Suhorukovs was sending trademark registration renewal notices under these company names to trademark owners to falsely suggest that they were official notices sent by the USPTO. His renewal notices would misrepresent the trademark registration's expiration date. The notices directed the victim to sign and return the notice. After the victim signed and returned the renewal notice, Suhorukovs would send the victim an invoice for the renewal service and charged inflated prices for the renewal of the trademark.  Victims would then, unknowingly, send renewal fee payments to his businesses, believing they were dealing with the USPTO. In the notices and invoices, Suhorukovs represented that the trademark registration would be renewed, when in fact, he did not or could not renew the registration because those trademarks were not yet eligible for renewal at the time he made his representations to the victims.

More than 2,900 U.S. trademark registrants were bilked out of millions of dollars for inflated, and often fake, renewal fees, over a nearly three-year period.

This is one example of the many schemes that have been propagated to confuse and defraud owners of U.S. registrations with solicitations that are intended to look like official correspondence. As discussed in our prior blog post, Beware of Private Trademark Registers, these schemes often scam registrants into paying for services they don't need. “Trademark filing scams are a growing international problem, with foreign entities increasingly targeting U.S. citizens with misleading solicitations,” stated David S. Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks. The USPTO's effort to combat such schemes is outlined at the USPTO's website. The press release by the DOJ about this case may be accessed here.

Any notice not originating from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or your trademark attorney, should be treated with skepticism and wariness. The trademark attorneys at Thomas P. Howard, LLC are highly experienced in properly prosecuting trademark applications with the USPTO.

About the Author

Thomas P. Howard

Thomas Howard is an experienced trial lawyer that handles intellectual property litigation nationwide, including copyright, trademark, trade secret and patent litigation, as well as complex civil litigation, including breach of contract, interference with contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, fraud and fraudulent transfer of assets.


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