- Posted on: Nov 8 2021
By: Daniel Davis
On Wednesday (September 15, 2021), a federal judge sentenced Viktors Suhorukovs to four years in prison. Suhorukovs, a Latvian citizen, sent thousands of fake trademark renewal notices to unsuspecting trademark owners using official-sounding names such as “Patent and Trademark Office” and “Patent and Trademark Bureau.” The scam, which Suhorukovs ran for nearly three years (from March 2017 until approximately January 2020), netted him millions of dollars.
Suhorukovs, who pled guilty to four counts of mail fraud, was ordered to pay more than USD $4.5 million in restitution to the more than 2,900 trademark owners who fell victim to his scheme. So far, the assets seized from Suhorukovs include almost $2.3 million in various bank accounts and $1.28 million in checks which he (unsuccessfully) attempted to deposit.
Unfortunately, Suhorukovs is just one of many scammers who exploit the fact that many trademark filings are publicly accessible. While the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has taken steps in recent years to protect trademark owners’ personal information, a determined con artist can still find a trademark owner’s contact information quite easily. Thankfully, there are some easy steps that every trademark owner can take to avoid falling victim to these misleading notices.
Look up your trademark on the USPTO website
If you know your trademark serial number or registration number, you can easily access your official trademark file by searching it at https://tsdr.uspto.gov/. If you own a registered trademark, you can easily see when your trademark is due for renewal by clicking on the “Maintenance” tab of your trademark file. This is an effective technique for dealing with scammers like Suhorukovs, who used fake deadlines (e.g., September 15, 2021, when the real deadline was September 15, 2024) to dupe his victims.
Compare the notice you received with examples of fake notices collected by the USPTO
The USPTO has collected examples of dozens of scam trademark notices—including one or two from Suhorukovs—on their website at https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/protect/caution-misleading-notices. If you receive a notice from one of these entities, do not reply to it! You may, however, wish to report the communication to the Federal Trade Commission.
Call your lawyer
The best way to deal with a suspicious trademark notice, however, is to simply contact an attorney. At Dunlap Bennett and Ludwig, our trademark attorneys have decades of experience with all aspects of trademark practice. We can spot a scam trademark notice in seconds. Equally important, we can identify legitimate notices from the USPTO (and bona fide complaints from third parties) and equip you with an effective strategy for protecting your business’ name and branding. So, if you ever receive an official-sounding letter or electronic notice about your trademark, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced trademark attorneys for assistance.
To learn more about intellectual property law, visit our Intellectual Property page here.
Posted in: Intellectual Property - Trademarks