Drones: Basic Federal Law

                                                  Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Drones: Basic Federal Law
By Susan Basko, esq.

Drones equipped with cameras or other sensors are really popular now as a fun hobby or as a business venture.  This article is to let the readers know the basic federal law regarding drone ownership and usage.

Drones are also known as UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems.  More commonly they are just called drones.  Drones can be used by hobbyists to get fun aerial shots.  They can also be used by organizations to survey land, search for a missing person, or make a video to promote a school or park.  Professional drone businesses use unmanned aerial systems, which may have different types of sensors on them, to inspect oil fields and oil rigs, storage tanks, water towers, cell towers, building sites, roofs, etc.  Any inspection job where you need to see the top of anything, a drone can be a great tool.  Most drones send video to a computer on the ground, where it is analyzed and reports made for the client.  

The basic law regarding drones comes from the Federal Aviation Administration, of FAA.  Although States and cities may have local drone laws, the basic laws that all drone owners and users in the U.S. must follow come from the FAA.

There are 3 basics in current federal drone law:
  • 1) Do you need to register your drone?
  • 2) Do you need to be licensed to operate a drone?
  • 3) Does your drone need to be able to communicate its identification?
VERY LIGHTWEIGHT DRONE USED ONLY FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSE -- DO NOT NEED TO REGISTER.  ALL drones must be registered unless they weigh under .55 pounds or less (under 250 grams) AND if they are flown ONLY under the Exception for Recreational Flyers.  Recreational Flyers are those who are not flying for any organizational or business purpose.  

DRONE OVER .55 POUNDS and up to 55 POUNDS  -- MUST REGISTER.  (THOSE WITH drones over 55 pounds must contact the FAA directly.) You register your drone with the FAA at the Drone Zone.  THIS IS THE LINK TO THE DRONE ZONE: drondzone.faa.gov

Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years. You'll need a credit or debit card and the make and model of your drone handy in order to register.  

Create an account and register your drone at dronezone.faa.gov. Select "Fly sUAS under Part 107."
Once you've registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number in case it gets lost or stolen.

YES, If your drone is between .55 pound (half pound) and up to 55 pounds, AND if you operate it for an organization or business, you need to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.

 Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test

To be eligible to get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be:

  • At least 16 years old
  • Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS

Study for the Knowledge Test
Review Knowledge Test Suggested Study Materials provided by the FAA.

Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN)
Create an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile prior to registering for the knowledge test.

Schedule an Appointment
Take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.

Complete FAA Form 8710-13
Once you've passed your test, for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) login the FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)* to complete FAA form 8710-13.

Review the full process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.


Yes, drones must now have Remote ID.  There are several ways to meet the requirements.

What is Remote ID?

Remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that can be received by other parties.

Why Do We Need Remote ID?

Remote ID helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly. Remote ID also lays the foundation of the safety and security groundwork needed for more complex drone operations.

There are three ways drone pilots will be able to meet the identification requirements of the remote ID rule:

  • Operate a Standard Remote ID Drone (PDF) that broadcasts identification and location information about the drone and its control station. A Standard Remote ID Drone is one that is produced with built-in remote ID broadcast capability in accordance with the remote ID rule's requirements.
  • Operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module (PDF). A broadcast module is a device that broadcasts identification and location information about the drone and its take-off location in accordance with the remote ID rule's requirements. The broadcast module can be added to a drone to retrofit it with remote ID capability. Persons operating a drone with a remote ID broadcast module must be able to see their drone at all times during flight.
  • Operate (without remote ID equipment) (PDF) at FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs) sponsored by community-based organizations or educational institutions. FRIAs are the only locations unmanned aircraft (drones and radio-controlled airplanes) may operate without broadcasting remote ID message elements.

Much of this information is taken from the FAA website on UAS.  Please go there to read more detailed information.  This blog post is a basic summary.  You will need to learn so much more to become a drone pilot.  

TRADEMARKS:  If you are starting a drone business, it's a good idea to protect the name of your business with a registered trademark.  I am a lawyer who registers trademarks, and I recently applied for a trademark for a drone business.  This gave me reason to spend a lot of time searching the trademark database for drone trademarks.  There are two basic categories -- businesses that sell drones as goods, and businesses that run a drone service, such as drone photography, drone inspection, drone search, etc.  You will want to get in with a good drone business name before the best ones are all registered by someone else.  The success of your business can hinge on having a good professional trademarked name.

Wixen v Triller: Music Apps Need to License the Songs



Wixen v Triller: Music Apps Need to License the Songs

by Susan Basko, esq.

Wixen Music Publishing has filed a lawsuit against the Triller app claiming the songs Wixen controls have been infringed by Triller.  Triller is an app run by CEO Mike Lu.  The app allows users to create 15-second music videos and share them with friends and contacts within the app.  The app makes many songs availavle to the users for use in the videos. Some of those songs are controlled by Wixen.  Triller allows its users to choose a song, choose which 15 seconds of the song to use, and to make a little music video.  

Wixen is run by Randall Wixen, who is one of my personal longstanding music heroes.  Randall Wixen came into music publishing as an accountant who would collect the publishing money owed and take a percentage.  This differs from the traditional music publisher, which usually takes 50% of the publishing rights and notoriously does almost nothing to earn it.  At the time Wixen started, his service was groundbreaking and a cure for the traditional music publishing grab that robbed so many songwriters.  This is how and why Wixen has an impressive A-list of songwriters who sign with the company to have their money collected at an affordable price.  These are veteran songwriters who do not need any "help" getting their songs out there.  The Wixen Publishing Client List of over 2,000 songwriting music artists includes Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine, Santana, Andrew Bird, Neil Young, The Doobie Brothers, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, The Doors, The Beach Boys, Steven Stills, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  

By US Copyright law, use of a song in a motion picture, including a music video, requires a Synch license from the publisher, as well as a Master's Use license from the owner of the copyright on the Sound Recording, which is usually a record label.  This lawsuit does not address the Master's Use license, because Wixen is a music publisher, not a record label.  I don't know if the song recordings used by Triller are original recordings owned or controlled by record labels, or if perhaps Triller has had sound-alike recordings made.  In either case, this particular lawsuit only deals with the publishing, by which is meant the songwriting, not the sound recording.   Songs have two copyrights -- the songwriting and the sound recording.  The songwriting copyright is usually controlled by a publisher, and will remain constant no matter which musicians have created a particular recording.  If Triller has used sound recordings without getting a Master's Use license, then it is possible there will be other lawsuits filed by record labels.  

Over the years, I have watched a good number of music start-ups fail and have to close up, and most of those were at least in part due to their lack of understanding of music law and /or their failure to get proper licensing for the music.  Music law is complex and most people do not understand it.  Further, music licensing is a gigantic, expensive pain.  

What makes music licensing such a pain?  First, there is no real central database that lists who controls what songs.  There are a mishmash of databases and they can be helpful, but there is no centralized registry.  Second, a song may have multiple songwriters, and each one may be represented by a different publisher, and by different publishers in different nations.  Third, since songwriters can move their songs from publisher to publisher, what is true one year may not be true the next.  Further, publisher merge, get bought up, go out of business, etc.  Songwriters die and their estates take over, and often the legal status of the publishing will be tenuous at best.  

So, let's say you have discovered which publishers control the songwriting / publishing rights to a song.  Let's say you eagerly want to get a synch license to use the song in a video.  Well, the publisher can say yes or say no, and they can even say nothing if they see you request as unworthy of a response.  Publishers always want to know a lot of information before granting a synch license, including which part of the song will be used in the motion picture, what the film or video will be like, who is producing and directing and starring in it, where it will be shown, how long it will be shown there, how many people will see it, and what the overall budget is and what the music budget is.  If the publisher grants the synch license, it can set any price and any terms it likes.  

With all that, how does an app negotiate to get synch licenses for thousands of songs, to be used in any way that the app users wish to use them?  As you see in this lawsuit, the easiest way is to skip getting synch licenses and deal with the consequences as they come.  Maybe that's not such a great idea.  Maybe music publishers should wake up and make themselves and the music they represent more available and affordable.  Use of a song in a video, even an amateur or fan music video, is good free publicity for the song -- usually, not always.  Sometimes a video can harm a song or do things the songwriter does not like, and that is one of the many reasons why publishers require information about the video before granting a synch license.  

Bulk licensing is possible, but a publisher rarely wants to deal with a music start-up company, with its finances as shaky as its reputation and future.  This is why, it seems, many music tech start-ups choose to ignore the complexities of music licensing.  The Wixen lawsuit complaint states, "The President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), a trade group to which Wixen belongs, criticized Triller for not fully licensing NMPA members’ songs, stating that “Triller’s popularity is largely based on music. It boasts ‘millions of songs at your fingertips,’ however many of those songs have not been properly licensed. The pattern of tech platforms asking for forgiveness instead of permission to use songwriter’s work must stop. Triller must legitimize its business by properly licensing all music on its platform.” 

However, there are reasons that "tech platform" ask "for forgiveness instead of permission to use (a) songwriter's work." Those reasons, I think are lack of understanding of music law, lack of access to a music lawyer, lack of financial resources in the start-up phase of a company, and complexity in getting synch licensing and Master's Use licensing.

Wixen's complaint hopes to dispel any notion that Triller was unable to afford synch licensing by alleging that Triller has been lavishing money on its social media influencers.  "However, rather than pay Wixen and the songwriters Wixen represents to use their Works, Triller pays “social influencers” substantial sums of money and provides them with Rolls Royces, mansions (with housekeeping), weekly sushi dinners at Nobu, and, in at least one instance, a helicopter."  This is a no-go with Randall Wixen, who has built his business on being impeccably fair with his roster of songwriters.  

Wixen Publishing's website has a page called "How to Clear Music."  It includes a list of "How Not to Clear Music," which includes the admonition, "Don't chat up the receptionist."  None of this list (below) sounds like Wixen is open to negotiating with a music start-up for synch licensing of its songs en mass.  To the contrary, this all sounds intimidating, foreboding, and expensive.  Nothing says a music publisher has to be open to working with music apps or social media.  But, those platforms are the present and future of music, so it would seem a good idea to get on board with the things that music lovers enjoy today.  Just sayin', it might be more productive than filing lawsuits after the fact.  

This music street runs both ways and there is enough fault going around for everyone to take their share.  A songwriter and their music publisher do legally own the rights and control what can be done with their songs.  But it is the music fans who have made the songs what they have become.  Rejecting tech and social media platforms or making it nearly impossible for them to use music is the historical equivalent to if songwriters had refused to allow their songs to be played on a Victrola or record player, or on the new-fangled radio.  Music is being used in new ways, giving the fans the ability to create their own video media.  Will music publishers remain in their castle towers surrounded by a moat -- and don't chat up the receptionist on the way into the castle, please -- or will they get with the times? This remains to be seen.  

A lawsuit such as this one filed by Wixen is enough to financially kill off a platform like Triller.  I have seen many a music start-up killed off by the expense and demands of music licensing.  Will Triller and Wixen be able to work out a deal?  We'll all find out.  


How to Clear Music

  • Allow adequate time to obtain approvals.  In many instances, we have to track down a touring songwriter for approval of your request, and this can take time.
  • Provide us with complete written details of the proposed use.  For books, TV shows and films, we require plot descriptions and text pages showing the in-context placement of the proposed use.
  • Send your completed request via mail, FAX or by email to licensing@wixenmusic.com.
  • Any proposed changes to a quote or license must be requested in writing.

How NOT to Clear Music

  • Don’t tell us how low your budget is.  If your request is approved, we will quote based on our perception of the fair market value, not your budget.
  • Don’t expect us to educate you in the clearance process or copyright law because you’ve never cleared anything before.  You should know what you’re doing before you contact us.  Consider hiring a clearance professional.
  • Don’t expect approval on a request just because you’re a bona fide good-deed-doing charity.  Many of our clients get dozens of charitable requests per week and they cannot all be approved.
  • Don’t ever send us a letter stating that if you don’t hear from us, you will assume that the use has been approved.  This will prompt an immediate and permanent denial.
  • Don’t change our forms of the terms of a license unless you have sent us a written request asking to do so, and we have approved such request.
  • Don’t chat up our receptionist.  It has zero bearing on whether your request will be approved or the speed in which your request will be considered.
  • No means no.  It is not an invitation to appeal a decision or send further information that you meant to send in your original request.
  • Don’t call our client or his or her manager or attorney directly to appeal their decision after receiving a response from this office.

Wixen v Triller Copyright i... by SusanBasko

Wixen Complaint List of Son... by SusanBasko

Trademarks and Your Side Hustle - 10 Quick Ideas

Trademarks and Your Side Hustle

10 Quick Ideas

by Susan Basko, esq.

You may be planning a small business for your retirement or as a side hustle now.  Trademarks are a backbone of a solid small business.  Here are some basics to know:

1. A trademark is a word (or set of words) or an image or a word and image combination that lets the potential buyers know the source of goods or services.  A trademark is often the name of a company or the name of a product (goods) or service that is sold by a company.  

2. A trademark can be real personal. It can even be your own name or your pen name, DJ name, music name, or the name under which you make jewelry, bake cakes, babysit, or mow lawns.  

3. Marijuana-related services and goods cannot get U.S. registered trademark.  That's because, while the sale of marijuana is legal in many states, it is still illegal federally.  If you apply for a trademark for a marijuana-related service or goods, the US Trademark Office will make "inquiries" of you.  It does not matter what you reply, because the Trademark Office in the end will deny your registration.  Period.  Selling terra cotta pots?  You can get a trademark.  Selling pot? No trademark.  Don't waste your time or money.

4. Work with a lawyer on choosing your business name and the names of your goods or services BEFORE you settle on a name.  That's because you want a name that can be registered as a trademark.  Do not sink your time and money into a name that you will have to change.

5. Merely descriptive. Trademark registrations are refused for being "merely descriptive."  "French Bakery" will be rejected by the Trademark Office if it is for a bakery selling French pastries.  However, if "French Bakery" is the name of a perfume, it might be accepted.

6. Geographic names will be rejected if they describe the location of the business.  "Mildred Street Saloon" will be rejected if it is a saloon on Mildred Street. However, it might possibly be able to go on the Supplemental Register.

7. Geographic names that show the source of origin are tricky.  There are rules for source of origin of things such as cheeses, beers, and wines and spirits.  You should absolutely work with a lawyer from the get-go on any of these.  The rules are complex.  For example, a mark that names the geographic origin of wines or spirits will be rejected as being geographic.  On the other hand, a trademark that incorrectly names or implies that wines or spirits are from a geographic region will also be rejected.  If a geographic terms is considered generic for those goods or services, it might be allowed, but disclaimed.  For possible example, the word "Burgundy" is a geographic location, but is also a generic term for a type of red wine, so a trademark such as "Parasol Burgundy," might be allowed, with the word "Burgundy" disclaimed in the application.  Wines and spirits from a geographic location might be better suited to getting a certificate of origin, which is a process different than a trademark.  This is all very tricky and not a do-it-yourself activity.

8. Your trademark cannot conflict with already-existing or already-pending trademarks for the same Class of goods or services.  They don't have to be the exact same goods or services -- just in the same Class.  For example, leather goods are a Class. If someone has already registered a trademark for Pashmina Wallets, you are not likely to be allowed to register a trademark for Pashimina Belts.  

As another example, a trademark for a company that sells drones will be registered as goods.  A trademark for a company that performs searches or photography or inspections via drones is a service.  As it happens, these two are in different Classes.  However, it is not likely a conflicting word mark would be allowed, even though these are different classes, because they both involve drones.  So it is not likely a trademark examiner will allow Skyway as a drone seller if there already exists Skyway as a drone photography service. 

9. A trademark will often be considered to conflict with an existing trademark if they have one of the same words in the mark, even if the whole trademark is not the same.  The two marks may conflict if they are spelled similarly, but not exactly the same.  Alternative spellings may conflict.  Let's say a trademark is Campus Capers.  An alternate spelling of Kampus Kapers for a same or similar class of goods or services will be considered a conflict and the trademark will not likely be allowed. 

10.  TRADEMARK IS NOT A DO-IT-YOURSELF ACTIVITY.  I register trademarks.  To succeed in registering a trademark, I take a lot of time with the initial search and the choice of trademark.  I counsel the clients on whether the registration is likely to succeed.  If it is not likely to succeed, then the person should choose a different trademark, unless they want to take their chance and be willing to risk their money on a possible rejection.  I spend a lot of time on choosing the proper specimen (sample of the trademark in use) to accompany the application.  The overwhelming vast majority of trademark applications fail.  It takes about a year for a trademark application to go DEAD.  If you want to succeed and end out with a registered trademark, do not try to do-it-yourself.  

Good News from the Trademark Office

Good News from the Trademark Office

by Susan Basko, esq.

Today, the U.S.Trademark Office sent out the good news below that one of the scammers who has bilked thousands of trademark applicants and holders out of millions of dollars has been arrested. The sad news is that there are many more such scammers.  The good news is that the U.S. Department of Justice has finally gotten serious about taking down these persistent frauds.

The way these scams work is that after a person applies for a trademark, they start receiving very realistic-looking bills via U.S. mail, email, or text.  The bills claim to be from the Trademark Office, and are for random amounts in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Many people have been fooled into paying recurring monthly bills.  There are no such fees or services required by the U.S. Trademark Office.  

Most of the people who get roped into paying these fake bills are do-it-yourself trademark applicants or those who use those scammy website things.  If they were working with a real lawyer, the lawyer would remind them the bill is fake.  It is ironic that people who skimp on legal fees by doing it themselves then go and pay thousands of dollars in fake fees. 

Developments on fraudulent solicitations 

This week, the United States Department of Justice announced that Viktors Suhorukovs, a citizen of Latvia, was 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 registrationsSuhorukovs established and operated Patent and Trademark Office, LLCand Patent and Trademark Bureau, LLC. These entities gave the false impression that they were, in fact, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), scamming more than 2,900 U.S. trademark registrants out of millions of dollars for inflated, and often fake, renewal fees.  

This is one of many schemes that confuse and defraud owners of U.S. registrations with solicitations that are intended to look like official USPTO correspondence. These schemes often falsely promise to take required maintenance actions on behalf of the registration owner, or they scam registrants into paying for services they don’t need.

We have worked hard to fight these solicitations and assist law enforcement in cases like Suhorukovs'. Learn more about our ongoing efforts to combat scams on our website. 

Trademark Scams Aplenty

Trademark Scams Aplenty

by Susan Basko, esq.

Trademark scams are harming the work of the U.S. Trademark Office, as well as harming legitimate Trademark lawyers, and duping and defrauding trademark applicants. If you want to apply for a trademark, how can you spot a scam?  This is fairly easy -- if you are using an automated service, instead of a trademark lawyer, you have probably been taken in by a scam.  If you are not conferring directly with a real live licensed lawyer, it is probably a scam.  If it appears to cost too little, it is probably a scam.  If it arrives in the mail demanding money, it is definitely a scam.  Below, we will look at a few of the biggest trademark scam/ fraud situations going right now.  

First, I recently received this Alert from the U.S. Trademark Office.  

Trademark Alert.  U.S. lawyers: Beware of solicitations asking to use your bar credentials

The USPTO recently learned that U.S. attorneys are again receiving emails from unlicensed individuals offering to pay to use the attorney's bar credentials in trademark filings  These solicitations are a direct attempt to circumvent the U.S. counsel rule.

Although we believe that only a small percentage of practitioners are engaging in this practice, the USPTO would like to remind U.S. attorneys that such an arrangement would likely be aiding the unauthorized practice of law and also a violation of federal rules, including the USPTO's Rule of Professional Conduct, 37 C.F.R. Part 11.

Scams can adversely impact the integrity of the trademark register.  If you receive a solicitation asking to use your bar credentials, please forward it to TMScams@uspto.gov.

Explained: The US Trademark Office requires any foreign entity to hire a U.S. lawyer to conduct any work with the U.S. Trademark Office, including trademark applications and the certification process.  In addition, the U.S. Trademark Office only allows licensed U.S. lawyers to represent any other person or entity before the Trademark Office.  There are non-lawyers who engage in trademark registration scams -- and thus, they try to "borrow" credentials from lawyers.  However, as you can note in the warning above, any lawyer agreeing to this is likely to lose their law license and possibly face criminal charges.  

ANOTHER HUGE TRADEMARK SCAM involves automated websites that claim to be registering trademarks for people, often at unrealistically low prices.  This whole practice started several years ago, and this is how it works:  Only a U.S.-licensed lawyer can register a trademark for any other person or company,  So, these automated websites claim that it is the applicants themselves who are registering their own trademark.  But, this makes no sense.  Trademark registration is a process that takes at least a year, and involves interaction with the trademark examiner.  These trademark website scams also usually charge unrealistically low prices.  The registration fee itself is $250 - $350 per class of goods or services.  On top of that, there is the work of a trademark lawyer for at least a year.  So, when you do a google search and up top are listings for companies charging $49, $59 or $69 for trademark registration, you know it is a scam.  It could not possibly cost that low when the required application fee itself is several hundred dollars.

I saw one trademark scam ad touting a "Turnaround Time of 72 Hours." This is not even slightly possible.  After filing an application, it waits for about 4 months to be assigned to a Trademark Examiner. In 72 hours, the application may (or may not) show up on the USPTO Database as "LIVE."  "Live" is used to denote trademarks that are in the application process that have not yet been declared DEAD, as well as those that have been successfully registered.  Perhaps the Trademark Office should make a different designation for trademark applications that are still in the application process -- for example, "Application Pending."  Referring to fraudulent trademark applications as "LIVE" facilitates that fraud.  The scam companies can send their customers a fake trademark certificate and point to their trademark on the USPTO database with the word "LIVE" next to it.  If the scam company takes no further action on a doomed application, as things are now run at the USPTO, that "LIVE" designation will remain for a year.  That feeds the fraud and enables it.  

Tim Lince of World Trademark Review did an absolutely brilliant investigative journalism piece on these trademark scam companies.   Muhammad Burhan Mirza of Digitonics Lab was arrested for running 213 of these trademark websites.  He and nine others were charged with fraud and money-laundering for running sites that claimed to be doing trademark registration, logo creation, ghostwriting services, etc.  

One of the many fraud websites was one called USPTOTrademarks.com  Obviously, that name would fool a lot of people into believing it was legit.  "The website (‘usptotrademarks.com’) uses the USPTO’s logo and colour scheme, while its About Us page claims to be “a project initiated by experienced lawyers and technologists” with “12 years of experience”." The website claims to be in "San Jose, California," but the operators were arrested in Pakistan.  How did it work?  They simply sent fake Trademark certificates to the applicants. "Even more concerningly, the report alleges that the company gave around 70% to 75% of clients “fake/fabricated” USPTO trademark certificates as part of the scam." 

Despite the flurry of arrests and allegations of fraud and extortion against these websites, some of them are still online to this day, such as USPTO Trademarks, a screen shot taken just now, shown below.  The entirety of U.S. Intellectual Property law is at stake -- at this juncture, the U.S. needs to step up and shut down these kind of scams with the same ferocity it uses to shut down kiddie porn sites.  Look at the site below-- could you blame people for being tricked into thinking this was legit?  


The U.S. Trademark Office has many times stated that it is not within their allowed activities to engage in prosecution of frauds or scams -- though the office does cooperate fully with authorities.  

This proliferation of scams harms the public, as well as harming the USPTO.  The only solution I can see that would work would be to require every trademark application to be filed by a licensed attorney and to have that attorney vouch for the legitimacy of the application and of his or her intent to conduct the full application process.  Federal courts require this of lawyers filing lawsuits.  It is time to do this with trademarks.  The trademark office is inundated with thousands of these fraudulent trademark applications, according to a follow-up article by Tim Lince of World Trademark Review (WTR).  In February of 2021, World Trademark Review published a list of the trademark applications made by 6 of these companies.  There are 81 pages of these trademark applications, with about 27 listed on each page!  The list gives the status of each application. Applying for a trademark is a process that takes at least a year and has various phases to it.  

If an application is going to fail, it usually takes at least a year from the date of filing for it to go DEAD on the USPTO database.  That's because a trademark application is filed and then sits for about 4 months waiting to be assigned to an Examiner.  If the Examiner issues a Nonfinal Office Action, the applicant is given 6 months to file a response.  If no response is filed or an incomplete or unsatisfactory response is filed, as would often be the case with an application not being tended to by a trademark lawyer, then it will go dead, usually several months after the 6 months deadline.  This means that applications destined to fail are on the USPTO Trademark Database as "LIVE" for about a year.  This harms and affects applicants who are trying to register trademarks that may conflict with the trademarks on the doomed applications -- their applications will be  put on hold to wait for the earlier-filed application to clear or go DEAD.  

This massive influx of trademark applications not properly made causes a huge amount of needless work for Trademark Examiners.  The Examiners are required to respond to each application as if it were legit.  Recently, however, the Trademark Office created a rule that short-circuits some of this.  The office has begun requiring an email address of the applicant.  The fraudulent companies have been in the practice of supplying their own email, probably to keep the applicant from finding out their application is not being handled properly.  After all, if a company is sending fake Trademark Certificates to 75% of its customers, the company does not want its customers in contact with the Trademark Office, where they may be alerted to the scam.  By having the Examiner request the trademark applicant's email address early on in the process, the Examiner can halt the process early on without progressing to the painstaking efforts of reviewing the application and writing a Nonfinal Office Action.

Google ads is at least partly to blame for this fiasco.  The fake and fraudulent trademark companies buy up key words and pay to have their ads at the top of the list when a person google-searches for trademark registration.  The ads offer very low prices, quick turnaround times -- none of which comport with the reality of trademark applications.  But, those being suckered into using these sites cannot be blamed -- the site says "USPTO Trademark," looks legit, etc. The REAL website of the US Patent and Trademark Office , USPTO.gov, to be truthful, is a cluttered mess.  It would be hard to blame the public for being attracted to a website that claims to be dealing in trademarks and makes it look as if the process is going to be easy, smooth, well-platformed, and affordable.  Should the US DOJ stop Google from running ads for fraudulent companies?  Better asked, WHY is the US DOJ allowing Google to run ads for fraudulent companies, companies that harm and make a mockery of the U.S. Trademark, Patent, and Copyright Offices?

The Real USPTO website -- USPTO.gov  - is cluttered, incomprehensible, has a search engine that delivers poor results, and is not in any way user-friendly.  A person wants to register a trademark, and if they do somehow manage, against all odds, to find the real USPTO website, they find up front a very dated photo of Jim Henson and the Muppets, lots of information on Covid-19, and cluttered verbiage with hundreds of links.  This ludicrously poor website design drives people to using fake and fraud websites that at least appear to offer streamlined solutions.  People get lured by absurdly low prices that, in fact, do not even cover the actual trademark registration fees.  Getting a trademark is like getting a university degree -- you can either pay a lot of money and spend a lot of time and work and get a genuine trademark and the certificate that goes with it, or you can pay $69 and fill out an online application and get a fake certificate.  

Screen shot of half of the front page of the real USPTO Website, below.  

My suggestions on how to deal with the current mess at the USPTO:

1. Require all trademark applications to be made only by licensed lawyers.  Most successful applications are already made by licensed lawyers, so all this would really do is get rid of the fraud applications and the nonsensical or poorly-made applications.  Have a list of lawyers who practice before the Trademark Office, and publish it, so the public knows how to find a real trademark lawyer.

2. Have the DOJ take aggressive action against fraudulent Trademark websites and companies, domain name ownership that confuses the public, etc.

3.  Have a public awareness campaign on what trademark is, how much it costs, and the rather complex process involved in getting a trademark.


Trademark applicants, even those making legitimate applications, are besieged by mail from fake companies demanding payment for fake trademark services.  The mail usually looks like bills and comes from addresses that include company names and addresses that sound somewhat legit.  These bills demand payment of hundreds, or usually thousands of dollars.  I have come across people online who have been paying hundreds of dollars each month to "maintain" their trademark.  These people have been duped by realistic-looking bills.  IF.. if these people had registered their trademarks using a real lawyer, they could ask the lawyer about the bill, and the lawyer would tell them, "No, that is fake.  Don't pay it."  

The U.S. Trademark Office is very well aware of these scams.  The Office, unfortunately, refers to them as "misleading notices."   "Misleading notices" is far too soft a term for fake bills that cause people to pay thousands of dollars to a scam company.  "Beware of all types of offers and notices not from the USPTO. In March 2017, the operators of a private company—the Trademark Compliance Center—were convicted of money laundering in a trademark renewal scam." https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/protect/caution-misleading-notices  

The USPTO provides a list of the names of some of the companies that have been sending out fake bills and notices demanding money.  You can click on any of the links to see actual examples of the misleading notices.

Solicitations originating within the United States

Solicitations originating outside the United States

This video gives additional useful information about these scam solicitations that are sent to most everyone that applies for a trademark, whether or not the applicant uses a trademark lawyer.