Virginia
22 December 2016
Reporter: Mark Dugdale
Beware of trademark scammers, says USPTO
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has warned trademark applicants to be wary of scammers after two men pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and money laundering.

Artashes Darbinyan and Orbel Hakobyan will be sentenced in June 2017 for their parts in a $1.66 million mass-mailing scam targeting trademark applicants, the Department of Justice confirmed last week. The USPTO aided in the investigation that led to their arrest.

Darbinyan admitted that he ran a mass-mailing scam through two companies. For a fee of $385, they offered to monitor an applicant’s trademark for infringing marks and to register it with US Customs and Border Protection.

Proceeds from the scam were then laundered through bank accounts at Wells Fargo. Hakobyan admitted to helping launder approximately $1.29 million of the scam’s proceeds. A third man, Albert Yagubyan, the former manager of the Wells Fargo branch where the majority of the scam’s proceeds were laundered, is awaiting trial.

USPTO commissioner for trademarks Mary Boney Denison wrote in a blog post on the issue: “Trademark solicitations have been a global problem for decades, including for USPTO customers, and we have implemented several measures to protect our customers against them.”

She explained that the USPTO includes a warning and a link to its Non-USPTO Solicitations page, which urges customers to carefully review all correspondence regarding their applications. A similar warning, on bright orange paper, is sent to every registrant when the agency mails the paper registration certificate to the registrant.

The USPTO also has several online resources, including a frequently updated list of fraudulent entities that have already been identified.

“A registered trademark is a valuable asset, and where there’s money, unfortunately, there are bound to be criminal elements lurking,” Boney Denison wrote. “The USPTO continues to provide its ongoing full support to US law enforcement officials working on this issue.”

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