China domain name scams

If your company has done anything in China (even just sending someone there to meet with a supplier), you have probably received a somewhat official looking email offering to “help” you stop someone from taking your domain name in China or maybe somewhere else in the world.

DO NOT RESPOND.

Our China lawyers have seen many of these — from our clients and from non-client companies asking our law firm for help — and every single one was a scam.

You also may get emails from someone claiming to have already registered some iteration of your company name (or one of your product names) and seeking to sell it to you. For example, if your company is called “xyz” and you already own the xyz.com domain name, your email may come from someone who has allegedly purchased and now wants to sell you the xyz.cn domain.

STRATFOR did a China Security Memo on how it expects these emails to increase once ICANN starts accepting applications for domain names with non-Latin characters (i.e., Chinese) — well, it appears they already have]:

This practice could get a further boost in China following the announcement in late October by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that domain names do not have to have Latin characters. No doubt Chinese domain peddlers are already preparing to register the established brand names of Chinese and foreign companies in Chinese characters.

In other words, you should expect to receive emails from people offering to protect you from “others” seeking to register a Chinese translation or variant of your name or product or someone seeking to sell you an already registered translation or variant.

WHAT TO DO?

First, as soon as possible, register whatever domains are necessary to protect yourself. Determine now what domain names you care about so you do not need to make this determination with an email “gun” to your head. Right now is the time to think about Chinese character domain names.

Second, if someone has taken a domain name important to you and they are now offering to sell it to you, you essentially have three choices. One, let the domain name go. Two, buy it from the company that “took” it from you. Or three, pursue legal action against the company that took it from you.

Preemption by registration is your best and least expensive protection. In other words, if you do not want someone taking your company name or one of your product names (or some variant of these) and using them for a domain name, register those as domain names right now. You should also consider registering them as trademarks in your home country and wherever else (including China, of course) you do business. Note that for trademark purposes, in most countries in Asia, “doing business” includes manufacturing.

What are you seeing out there?

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.