In the sanctions order, the PTO outlined the activities of the three respondents, which appear to operate as separate entities but are ultimately controlled by Abtach, a Pakistan-based company that is also under investigation by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency for criminal fraud. The PTO’s use of the word “egregious” to describe the respondents’ actions might be an understatement. The sanctions order describes how the respondents set up dozens of websites to hold themselves out as providers of logo designs and low-cost trademark application filing services while forging documents that appear to be issued by the PTO, artificially modifying official PTO documents, threatening customers with legal action if they did not file for registration of their logos through the respondents, intentionally filing applications with errors to delay and increase the cost of the prosecution process, submitting invalid verifications and declarations and demanding payments for unnecessary services or fraudulently inflated fees. The respondents took these actions while failing to employ any US-licensed lawyers to do this work before the PTO.
In determining appropriate sanctions, the PTO considers several factors, including whether the conduct was willful or negligent, whether it was part of a pattern of activity or an isolated event, whether it infected the entire record or was limited to a single submission, whether it was intended to injure a party, what effect it has on the PTO and what is needed to deter similar conduct by others. In this case, the PTO found that the respondents had orchestrated a “widespread, intentional and coordinated effort to defraud both applicants and the USPTO.” Finding the respondents’ activities to be both willful and fraudulent, and to have harmed thousands of applicants while also delaying proceedings in the PTO and “eroding trust in the U.S. trademark registration process,” the PTO ordered termination of all trademark applications and proceedings submitted by the respondents. The PTO will also flag any issued registrations as being subject to a sanctions order. To the extent any victims of the respondents have a proceeding terminated by the order but can demonstrate that their proceedings did not involve submissions made by the respondents, those parties may seek a review via a petition to the director. The respondents are also precluded from any future proceedings before the PTO on behalf of others. Their PTO accounts are deactivated, and they are barred from creating or activating new or further accounts. The sanctions are without prejudice to the PTO taking further actions to protect its systems and procedures from further bad acts by the respondents.