Domain Name and Keyword Scams in Asia

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Many of our clients have received emails purporting to be urgent from official sounding companies from Asian countries claiming that a third party has filed an application to register a domain name or purchase a keyword for one or more of its marks.  Contrary to the assertions made in these emails, there is no official application process for domain name registrations that would require a registrar to notify you or give you first shot at domain names or keywords that correspond to your trademarks, trade names or your other domain names.  These companies are just trying to get you to register domain names and keywords through them, usually at inflated prices.  Because these emails use urgency and fear to deceive the unsuspecting, it is important to alert employees who receive unsolicited emails through your company’s various email addresses that they should not respond to such emails.

Short answer – these solicitations are scams.

These scams involve a fairly recent phenomenon known as domain tasting or front-running.  What sometimes happens is that these registrars register domains using your mark(s) or trade names and have up to a couple of days before they have to pay the registration fees.  During that time, they send out solicitations to see if you are interested in the domain names or keywords and if they can get you to pay them for the registrations.  So, after receiving one of these notices, if you check the domain name at issue, you may see that it is registered.  Also, some registrars (including some in the U.S.) will register a domain after you check availability on a “who is” or other look up but do not purchase the domain name, because the registrar is monitoring “who is” or availability searches.  Often, if this happens, you will find that the domain names are available after a period of time because the registrar did not pay for the registration.  Thus, if you check the availability of a domain name and find it is available, it is suggested that you immediately purchase it if you are interested in owning it.  Otherwise, even later that same day you may find that another party has registered it, and if you check carefully that party will be the registrar itself.  The registrar will likely sell it back to you, but at its own rates, which are often higher.

Thus, it is suggested that you do not respond to solicitations alleging that a third party is trying to register domain names and keywords for your marks.  If you do respond and show interest, the registrar will likely go further to secure the domain names and additional domain names that incorporate your mark(s), and purchase keywords for the same.  Then it will cost you more if you want those domain names.  As noted above, if you wait a few days, the domain name(s) may appear as available if the party practicing the domain tasting did not pay the registration fees.

Since there are so many different domain name variations available, you could spend a lot of money registering every iteration and country tld extension available.  Also, a plethora of additional domain name extensions will soon be available.  Therefore, it is a good idea to register variations of the more common tlds and country extension tlds (e.g. .com, .net, .eu, etc.).  Asia is certainly a growing market, but the value of having a .cn  or .asia domain name is unclear particularly where the domain name is in English instead of, for example, Chinese characters, which are far more likely to be used in China than the English equivalent.  The most common version, .com, is probably most important.  We do not suggest paying a premium for a .cn or related tld, but if it is available or becomes available through a legitimate registrar and if China or another country with a tld extension is an important market for you, it would probably be a good idea to obtain registrations for your marks in English if preferred, or for the Chinese or other local language equivalent of your mark(s), trade name or primary domain name.

While there are some countries that require a local presence for domain name registrations, most do not and your web master should be able to obtain many domain name registrations for you through well-known reputable registrars.  Otherwise, we have vendors and local agents that can secure country specific registrations for you.

Should you have any questions, please contact:

                                                        Gabrielle A. Holley                           James R. Menker