Chinese domain names and internet keywords

Wednesday 23rd April 2008

Have you recently received an email from a Chinese internet company, saying that someone else has tried to register your name as a domain name or internet keyword in China? If so, you are not alone.

At Baldwins we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from clients about these emails, which typically state that:

  • the sender is an authorised domain name registrar in China;
  • a third party has attempted to register a name as a domain name or as an internet keyword;
  • an internet check showed the name may be connected to you;
  • the registration has been delayed while the registrar contacts you;
  • the registrar can register the domain name or keyword on your behalf to block the third party from doing so.

These emails are misleading, if not fraudulent.

Chinese domain names

The most common domain names referred to are:

  • .cn, which is the general designation for China; and
  • .com.cn, which signifies a business or company in China, similar to .co.nz in New Zealand and .com.au in Australia.

Like .com and .co.nz domain names, .cn and .com.cn domain names are registered on a first come, first served basis. We are not aware of any requirement on registrars to investigate whether domain name applications raise any trade mark issues, or to impose a stand down period while such issues are explored.

We have registered a number of Chinese domain names for clients without experiencing any such process or delay, and the body responsible for Chinese domain names states that registrations are entered into the registration database immediately.

If a third party was interested in your name, it would have simply registered it and an email such as this would not arise.

Chinese internet keywords

These are short form words that can be used as searching tools. Each keyword is linked to a particular domain name or website. For example, we could register BALDWINS as an internet keyword and link it to our website at www.baldwins.com. When someone typed BALDWINS into the address bar of their internet browser they would be directed to our website.

The intention of these keywords is that it will be easy for people to find you by typing in a keyword rather than having to guess what your whole domain name is.
However, these keywords:

  • only operate in China; and
  • only operate on certain supported internet browsers.

Accordingly, registering a keyword is of limited value, as only internet users in China, who are on a site that supports keywords, can use them.

Also, internet users in China are more likely to enter Chinese characters than English words when looking for your company. This further reduces the value of an English keyword.
Like Chinese domain names, we are not aware of any requirement on registrars to investigate whether internet keywords raise any trade mark issues, or to impose a stand down period while such issues are explored. The body responsible for internet keywords states that internet keywords will be operational within 24 hours of registration.

Scare Tactics

The companies that send these emails appear to base them on existing domain names. They are simply trying to scare you into registering domain names and internet keywords, as a means of creating business for themselves.

We advise against dealing with them.

If you wish to register Chinese domain names or internet keywords, either because they are relevant to your business or to protect yourself from others, we can easily and immediately register them through a reputable registrar. One we use charges US$23.50 per year for a domain name registration, which can then be redirected to your existing website.
We would only recommend registering Chinese internet keywords if you would be particularly perturbed if Chinese websurfers, who use an internet keyword, on a site that supports them, and enter queries in English rather than Chinese, were directed to someone else’s website.

If you would like more information, have received an email you are concerned about, or would like any Chinese domain names or internet keywords registered on your behalf, please contact your usual advisor at Baldwins.

Need more information?

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