Playing on IPR fears: The China domain name registry scam

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You may have received a very helpful looking email lately alerting you to the fact that a Chinese company was attempting to register your domain name here in China, and should you take action quickly, you could not only stop this from happening, but also properly register your domain name and protect your copyright in the barren wasteland of IPR that is China.

It’s all so nice and helpful, and it plays on fears of China as a legal quagmire where anything and everything gets copied. But as the global intellectual property consultancy Rouse & Co. International point out, it may be part of a scam that has been doing the rounds in China for several years now.

This is what they have to say about it.

In China, as elsewhere, the domain name registration system does not require applicants to show that they have any legitimate interest in or right to a name in order to register it as a domain name. Applications are, therefore, not subjected to substantive examination.

The domain name system in China is operated and administered by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which lists on its website,, all accredited domestic domain name registries.

In recent years, brand owners in China have been receiving emails from companies that purport to be, but are not in fact, official Chinese domain name registries.

These emails indicate that the registry concerned has received applications for the registration of domain names that include brand or trading names belonging to the email recipient. They suggest that if these applications have not been authorized by the brand owner, contact should be made with the registry so that the issue can be properly addressed and the interests of the brand owner protected. When contact is made with the registry, the email recipient is encouraged to register various domain names in the “.cn” and other TLDs in order to protect themselves against the activities of the applicant. In some cases, additional, related services are also being offered.

If you receive an email of this sort, you should check carefully before responding. If the company sending the email is not listed as an accredited registry on the CNNIC website, the email should be ignored. It may, however, prompt you to review your domain name registration policy.

“It makes sense to register not just your company domain as a dot com, but also the country jurisdiction as well,” says Richard Hoffmann, Dezan Shira & Associates’ IPR lawyer. “So for example with ‘Acme Ltd,’ we would recommend, in addition to the domain, registration of as well as pertinent derivatives such as and so on. Regrettably few international businesses are taking up options on the registrations and unscrupulous businesses in China are taking advantage of this.”

For guidance on this matter we recommend contacting Rouse & Co. International as China IPR specialists, with Linda Chang being the main contact. Rouse have offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong and are recognized industry leaders in IPR legal matters.