A White Plains law firm that specializes in intellectual property issues is trying to shut down a Brooklyn patent and trademark organization that it claims is scamming customers.
Leason Ellis LP sued Patent & Trademark Association Inc. in federal court in White Plains on July 10.
“Activities of PTMA have damaged the integrity of the trademark process,” the complaint states, “by causing consumers to doubt the legitimacy of trademark-related communications.”
A telephone number for PTMA was not in service and no one responded to an email request for comment.
PTMA describes itself as an independent and private organization on its website and states it has no connection to any government institutions.
But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – the official government trademark agency – has identified PTMA as an example of companies that solicit customers by mimicking the look of official government documents.
The Federal Trade Commission also has issued warnings about companies that charge overpriced, unnecessary or deceptive fees for renewing, registering or monitoring trademarks.
Leason Ellis claims that clients have been confused by unsolicited notices for such trademark services.
It says trademark scammers send official looking forms that ask for payments to publish or register a trademark. They use company names, document formatting and promotional content that are meant to deceive prospective customers into believing that the service is offered by a government agency.
PTMA, according to Leason Ellis, “is one such company seeking to confuse trademark owners into purchasing services under false color of authority.”
For instance, its web address uses a “.us” domain that consumers could mistake for an official government site.
PTMA offers a “Central Database of Intellectual Property” that lists details about specific trademarks and lets customers register on the database.
The purpose of the database, PTMA states on its website, is to allow customers to make sure their ideas are not already trademarked and to protect them from infringements on their own trademarks.
But trademark applications are a matter of public record, Leason Ellis states, and can be easily checked online.
The $750 that PTMA charges for registering for its database, the law firm states, “has no real value.”
The lawsuit shows an address in Gravesend, Brooklyn, as PTMA’s principal place of business. The same address is used by International Patent & Trademark Corp. and by another company, which are not named in the lawsuit. PTMA shows a Manhattan address on its website.
The law firm accuses PTMA of unfair competition, false advertising, deceptive practices and interference with economic relations.
It is asking the court to restrain the company from selling trademark or intellectual property services, to require an accounting of profits from unlawful activities and to assess damages.