September 10, 2009

Dealing With Asian Domain Name Email Scams

Holland & Knight Alert
Thomas W. Brooke

During the past year, companies around the world have received official-looking email messages from companies purporting to be Internet domain name registries based in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere. The messages issue dire warnings that an independent company has shown intent to register a domain name incorporating the company’s name or mark, and advising the true owner to register the domain name before it is too late. These emails are nothing more than marketing gimmicks designed to attract trademark owners to register, through the company sending the emails, as many domain names and Internet keywords as possible. Although many of the companies sending email solicitations for domain name registrations may be approved domain name Register Organizations, these companies are not necessarily reliable or trustworthy.

In most countries, including those in Asia, the domain name registration system does not require a domain name applicant to demonstrate that it has any prior interests in or rights to the name for which it applies. As a result, anyone can register any domain name, and the domain name registrar does not have any duty or obligation to examine the qualification of the applicant.

In practice, domain registrar companies do not contact the relevant trademark or trade name owners before reviewing a third party’s application for registration of the domain names. The registrar companies are under no obligation to make such inquiries, and it is actually not proper for them to do so, as a duty to investigate every single application would then be implied.

The best course of action if you receive one of these email “warnings” is to find out more about the company named as a potential registrant to see what business it actually conducts, or if it actually exists in the first place – or you could simply ignore the email. If the Internet keyword and domain names mentioned are important, your team at Holland & Knight has the experience necessary to work with you to obtain valid title to the names through accredited and reliable domain name registries. Whether this course of action is sensible should be determined independently of solicitations.

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