USPTO ‘Oversight’ Discloses 21,000+ Email Addresses

I have a “heads up” for anyone that has filed a trademark application recently:

In a completely unforced error, the United States Patent & Trademark Office may have just exposed your email address to scammers.

If you receive an email related to your trademark (that is not from the attorney who filed your application), be very suspicious of it and forward it to your attorney for review.

So why did this data breach happen?

A few years ago, the USPTO started requiring that we put a client’s email address in each trademark application. Previously, only the attorney’s email address had gone in the application.

Many trademark attorneys objected to this requirement at the time it was being implemented. This was because there have been A LOT of scams over the years surrounding trademark filings.

For example, once a trademark filing is made, the information in the application becomes public (e.g. the mailing address of the trademark owner). Not-so-nice people have taken this information and mailed fake renewal notices and fake bills to companies that have filed trademark applications.

The USPTO has done an exceptionally poor job in stopping these scams. Therefore, when the USPTO announced they were going to start requiring client email addresses, many attorneys freaked-out. The main concern: while mailed scams were bad enough, emailed scams might be much harder to detect and stop.

The USPTO assured us that they would keep client email addresses hidden from public view.

Unfortunately, on May 24th, the USPTO broke that promise. Per the USPTO, over 21,000 client email addresses were exposed when it made an “oversight in the transition process to issuing e-registration certificates…”

I would argue this was a tad more serious than an “oversight…”

Josh Gerben, Esq.

Josh Gerben, Esq. is the founder and principal of Gerben IP. In 2008, Mr. Gerben started the firm to provide high-quality trademark services at reasonable prices. Today, he is recognized by the World Trademark Review as a top trademark filer, having registered over 7,500 trademarks. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as legal advice.

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