Don’t Fall for This Chinese Trademark Scam
A trademark is any word, name or symbol used to identify and distinguish goods and services. For business owners, trademarks provide an easy way to build customer loyalty and communicate the quality and source of goods and services. Businesses often spend a great deal of time and money building their brand, so trademarks are one of the most valuable intangible assets your company can own. Unfortunately, this also makes trademarks a target for unscrupulous businesses and scammers.
I recently discovered one such scam after a client forwarded an email from a fictitious Chinese trademark agent. They claimed someone had applied to register their trademarks and urged the customer to follow a made-up pre-application process to stop the registration. In reality, China follows the first-to-file principle for obtaining trademark rights, and there is no such procedure for blocking a trademark application. Once a trademark application is filed, China’s Trademark Office will examine the application. If the mark is found to be distinctive, has not previously been registered and does not violate Chinese law, the office will preliminarily approve the application for publication in the PRC Trademark Gazette. Afterwards, the mark will proceed to registration if there is no opposition to the mark within three months. Only the Chinese Trademark Office has authority to determine whether a trademark application moves forward, and there is no mechanism for a trademark agent to grant an applicant special priority.
The scams are often marked “Urgent” and claim that a response is required within two to three days. These scammers hope they can scare the recipient into paying, but before responding to these emails, business owners should check the progress of the alleged application online. If the trademark is not in the Gazette, then a business owner may consider registering their mark in order to prevent dilution of their brand.
Trademark scams are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. If you are unsure whether an email concerning your trademark is legitimate, contact a trusted trademark attorney. The Strong Firm P.C. understands the importance of screening unnecessary solicitations, and we can help you evaluate the risks and understand how to properly protect your federal trademark.