We have recently become aware of a scam regarding Chinese ".cn" domain names that is appearing with increasing frequency in our clients' mailboxes.
A number of our clients have recently received letters or e-mails from purported official Chinese domain name registrars stating that someone else is attempting to register the client's trademarks and/or business name as ".cn" domain names in China. According to these letters, the client typically has 15 days in which to contest the other party's pending registration of the domain name and register ahead of the alleged pirate. The companies sending the letters offer to assist the client in obtaining the ".cn" Chinese domain names and thus "save" them from alleged pirates in exchange for a steep fee.
Although the companies sending these letters usually have official-sounding names that suggest a connection with the Chinese government, our investigations of these letters have revealed that many of these companies are not even ICANN-accredited domain name registrars. In addition, many of the companies who are listed as the alleged applicants for the domain names do not exist. It appears that this is nothing more than a scam for unaccredited registrars to drum up business by convincing companies that someone else is trying to register their trademark as a domain name in China.
If you have received any of these communications from alleged Chinese domain name registrars, we can review the letters and provide you with our recommendations. However, it is likely that many of these communications are not legitimate; although Chinese law does provide trademark owners with a 15-day period to contest registration of domain names containing their trademark, there is no provision for applications to be held up while the apparent rightful trademark owners are researched and identified by the registrar and notified that someone else is trying to register their ".cn" domain names.
Companies may still wish to register ".cn" domain names in China through normal channels and at normal fees. It may be important for any company doing significant business in China, where Internet piracy and cybersquatting can be serious issues, to register the ".cn" domain names for its trademarks, especially since Chinese domain name registrations are not subject to the ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy for domain names. There is a separate domain name dispute resolution procedure for Chinese domain names, but this is available to trademark owners for only the first two years after the domain name has been registered. After this period, the only remedy is usually to offer to purchase the domain name from the current registrant.