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“Trademark Monitoring” Company Settles with Vermont Attorney General Over Deceptive Mailings

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

May 8, 2013

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has reached a settlement with Trademark Monitoring Services, Inc., for mailing solicitations to Vermont businesses that misrepresented that the businesses owed it money for trademark-related services. Under the settlement, TMS must comply strictly with Vermont and federal law regulating through-the mail offers, pay full refunds to the businesses that sent it money, and pay $10,000 to the State of Vermont in penalties and costs.

The office of Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell has received a number of complaints from individuals and businesses concerning unauthorized billings by out-of-state companies. “Billing people for things they didn’t agree to buy is a violation of Vermont law,” said Attorney General Sorrell, “and we will take legal action against companies that engage in that practice.”

Because of an increase in this type of billing, the Vermont legislature has decided to make the violation of law more specific. Today the Senate takes up an amendment to Vermont law previously passed by the House of Representatives that outlines the requirements for sending solicitations so that they will not be mistaken for bills.

TMS, whose offices are located at 355 South Grand Avenue, Room 2450, Los Angeles, California 90071, and whose Chief Executive Officer is Artem Basan, offers services such as monitoring trademarks and service mark registrations and searching for similar trademarks. The cost of these services ranged from $485 to $1,285 per year.

TMS sent mailings to 18 Vermont businesses, resulting in payments by three of them, two of which stopped payment on their checks. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the Attorney General concluded that the TMS mailings misrepresented that businesses owed it money, by using language such as “PROCESSING FEE … DUE NOW,” “PAST DUE NOTICE,” “Final Date for Payment,” and “YOU MUST PAY THE FULL AMOUNT DUE BY [DATE] TO AVOID ADDITIONAL PENALTIES AND LATE FEES.”

In addition, TMS’ mailings did not contain as prominent a disclaimer as is required by the United States Postal Service for through-the-mail solicitations that could reasonably be considered a bill, invoice or statement of account due.

According to the Attorney General, these practices violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act’s prohibition on unfair and deceptive acts and practices in commerce.

For more information on the settlement, call the Attorney General’s Office at (802) 828-5507.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.