by Cecilia Lou and Yao Di of King & Wood’s Intellectual Property Group

It is not uncommon to receive unsolicited emails from domain registrars warning of imminent domain registrations by third parties. Generally, this email is a means by which some registrars solicit business in China. In many cases there is no actual third party attempting to register the domain in question.

When receiving such domain name emails we suggest that clients consider the following measures:

1. If the domain is not yet registered:

Importance of domains in China – Chinese consumers, especially the younger generation, increasingly turn to the internet for information. A failure to secure the proper domain names may prevent a business from leveraging an important forum to provide information to its customers, damage brand reputation, dilute trademarks or confuse customers. Domain name registration is relatively inexpensive and easy.

Registering a "" or ".cn"  domain – Companies actively doing business in China are recommended to consider registering their domain name in the "" and ".cn" domains in addition to the common ".com" domain. It is easy to search the database of the China Internet Network Information Center ("CNNIC") to establish whether domain names are still available for registration.

Internet Keywords – More common in China than in Western countries is the registration of internet keywords in China (i.e. words that can be typed into the navigation toolbar directly – often the actual company name).  Internet keywords are commonly called "General Website Addresses". Such internet keywords can greatly facilitate Chinese-speaking consumers who wish to find your company but have difficulty recalling long English domain names.

2. If the domain name is already registered by a third party

If an important domain is already registered by a third party then you will need to file a complaint or file suit against the registered party according to Articles 5 or 15 of the Measures of the China Internet Network Information Center for Resolving Domain Name Disputes to cancel or transfer the domain name registration.

You will need to challenge the domain registration through a Dispute Resolution Institute authorized by CNNIC (CIETAC and HKIAC are authorized by CNNIC to solve the dispute of .cn domain names) or take legal action against the owner of the domain names in question.

3. If important Internet Keywords have been registered in the name of a third party

If a third party has applied to register important Internet Keywords (i.e. the company’s name) then it may be sufficiently serious enough to challenge such application and register the Internet Keywords according to the Measures of General Website Address Registration Dispute.

You may challenge the internet keywords registration through a Dispute Resolution Institute authorized by CNNIC (CIETAC is a CNNIC-accredited institute to solve the dispute of internet keyword registration), or bring an action before the court against the registered owner of the internet keywords in question.

If a company has no plans to do business in China currently, the company may simply ignore a third party registration. However, companies should nonetheless consider whether another party’s registration and use of such domain name will damage the company’s brand reputation, dilute its trademark or confuse its customers.