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“Patent and Trademark” Company Settles with Vermont Attorney General over Deceptive Mailings

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507

August 20, 2013

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has reached a settlement with Patent & Trademark Agency, LLC (“PTA”), for mailing solicitations to Vermont businesses that contained a number of misrepresentations about the company and its services. Under the settlement, PTA must comply strictly with the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, pay full refunds to the businesses that sent it money, and pay $10,000 to the State of Vermont in civil penalties and costs.

The office of Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell has been working to protect Vermont businesses from unfair and deceptive trade practices directed at them from out of state. “We need to ensure that local companies are not the targets of misleading mailings or other conduct that violates our consumer laws,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

PTA, whose offices are located at 477 Madison Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, New York 10022, and whose owner is Armens Oganesjans, offers to renew commercial trademarks. In 2012, the company sent letters to a number of businesses in the State of Vermont, identified from a publicly available database, to offer them trademark renewal services. PTA charged between $985 and $1750 trademark renewals, substantially more than the amounts charged by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

In August 2012, the USPTO took issue with aspects of PTA’s mailings that had “a tendency to confuse recipients into thinking [PTA] is a U.S. Government entity.” Those aspects included:

  • The use of the term “Patent” in PTA’s name even though it appeared from its website that it offered no patent services.
  • Inclusion of official elements of the recipient’s government filings with the USPTO, including trademarks, serial numbers, filing dates, and registration numbers.
  • The lack of any of the earmarks of a solicitation by a private company.
  • The absence of a prominent disclaimer that the solicitation was not government-sanctioned or government-required; and
  • The USPTO also alleged that PTA’s website (www.patenttrademarkagency.org) magnified the likelihood of confusion by using a layout, color scheme, and fonts similar to the layout, color scheme, and fonts used by the USPTO at its website.

    PTA subsequently changed a number of these design elements in response to the USPTO’s concerns, although apparently not to the agency’s satisfaction, and not before it sent its mailings to the Vermont businesses. According to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, PTA’s mailings were deceptive and, as such, violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.

    For more information on the settlement, call the Attorney General’s Office at (802) 828-5507. Businesses or individuals who have received similar solicitations from other companies are encouraged to file a complaint with the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program, http://www.uvm.edu/consumer/?Page=complaint.html.

      Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.