If you’ve created a product or service you’re eager to sell, it makes sense to get patent or trademark protection. But some information that looks official might really just a scam to get your money.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the FTC want you to know that there are companies pretending to be the USPTO or a partner of the USPTO. They’re tricking patent and trademark holders into paying them “fees” for services, but they’re not the USPTO. These companies often send official-looking solicitations that offer to do things like renew your trademark registration, sign you up for trademark monitoring services, record your trademarks with government agencies, or list them on a private “registry.” Nearly always, the services offered are overpriced, unnecessary, or outright deceptive.

The names and emblems these imposters use on their forms help them seem like they’re connected with the USPTO, copying the look of “official” government forms. Some patent or trademark holders have paid imposters hundreds or even thousands of dollars — mistakenly thinking they were paying fees to the USPTO, or paying fees the USPTO requires, to maintain and protect their patents and trademarks.

Read any notice about your patent or trademark very carefully. Official mail from the USPTO will come from the "United States Patent and Trademark Office" in Alexandria, VA. If it comes via e-mail, the domain will be "@uspto.gov."

The USPTO has information to help you understand the patent application and maintenance process. The FTC can help you learn more about what invention promotion firms do and how to avoid scams. And if you’ve experienced this or other scams, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.