16 Oct Watch out for Chinese domain name issues
Does the following message look familiar?
We are Shanghai NET Network Information & Technology Co., Ltd., which is the domain name register center in China. We have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on Sept. 17, 2007. One company called X Company is applying for following: YOURMARKHERE.COM.CN
These days, we are dealing with it, so we hope to get the affirmation from your company. Please let someone in your company who is responsible for trademark or intellectual property rights contact us. If there is any question, please contact us as soon as possible.
Check Domain Name Dept.
Shanghai NET Network Information & Technology Co., Ltd.
Oversea Internet Domains Accredited Registry
Messages similar to this one are being posted to companies’ websites or sent to e-mail addresses, urging immediate action in China regarding the companies’ domain names.
These messages appear to be bogus. That said, what should a company do to protect its names in China?
Register trademarks in China
The first thing a business should look at is its trademark portfolio in China. A trademark generally has no protection unless it is registered with the Chinese Trademark Office. For any company with a presence in China, including a business simply manufacturing goods there for export, registration is highly recommended. Applications for registration should be made for all key brand names, in both English and the Chinese translation or transliteration. Logos also should be registered.
Even if a company does not have a presence in China, it should consider filing trademark applications for defensive purposes. Enterprising individuals often check the U.S. registry to see if marks are on file in China; if they are not, the individuals “hijack” them. So unless the Chinese market will never be important to a business, relevant trademark applications should be filed.
Register domain names in China
A business should not reply to the spam e-mail like the one above, but it should consider filing domain names in China. In addition to the top-level domain names (.com, .net, .org), each country has a country code and domains can be registered under it (.us, .fr, .ca). The country code for China is “.cn.”
For some businesses, having an internet site (most likely in the Chinese language) that can be found at a “.cn” domain name might be valuable. Others might prefer to have a link on the main dotcom page that goes to a Chinese-language site. Yet, again, as with their trademarks, even these companies should consider filing for key domain names under the “.cn” regime to protect them defensively. The filings will also keep those domains available for future use.
The domains can include Chinese-language characters (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is just beginning to test whether domain names written entirely in a foreign script, including the .cn portion, will work effectively).
Obtaining the domain names is relatively inexpensive. Registration for .cn domains is made through the China Internet Network Information Center.
Previous articles by Deborah Wilcox
• Deborah Wilcox: Open source software: Is it really and truly free?
• Making deals with evolving technologies in mind
• Deborah Wilcox: “Inline” intellectual property raises legal issues
• Deborah Wilcox: The press vs. Google: Copyright cases to watch
• Deborah Wilcox: Is your business domain at risk?
• Deborah Wilcox: Are consumers confused by search engine ads?
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