Every so often there seems to be an uptick in what I call the China domain name scam and now is one of those times. Our China lawyers frequently get emails from U.S. companies asking us what they should do about an email they just received (usually in poorly written English) telling them they must register their domain name in China fast or lose it forever.
The thing about these emails is that the companies that ask us about them usually just got back from their first (or sometimes their second) trip to China and that is why they are so confused. Us too, in that we do not know if there are groups in China that get the names of U.S. companies going there and then send out these emails or whether it is just the case that these U.S. companies are just particularly attuned to such emails because they are just starting to do business in China. Can anyone tell us?
Anyway, just so everyone knows, these emails usually look something like this and they are complete fakes and should be ignored:
We are China’s internet domain services company and last week, we received an application from a Chinese company that has requested we register “[NAME OF U.S. COMPANY”] as their internet name and China (CN) domain name. But after checking into it, we learned that this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China? Please respond soonest.
We first wrote about this scam way back in 2009, in China Domain Name Scams. Just Move Along [link no longer exists] and back then we had this to say:
If your company has done anything in China (even just sending someone there to meet with a supplier), you have probably received a somewhat official email offering, at a steep price, to “help” you stop someone from taking your domain name.
DO NOT RESPOND.
Near as I can tell, every single one of these that I have seen (and I have seen at least fifty of them because clients are always sending them to me) are a scam.
You also may get emails from someone claiming to have already registered some iteration of your company name (or one of your product names) and seeking to sell it to you. For example, if your company is called “xyz” and you already own the xyz.com domain name, your email may come from someone who has purchased and now wants to sell you the xyz.cn domain.
What to do?
First off, as soon as possible, register whatever domains necessary to protect yourself. Determine now what domain names you care about so you do not need to make this determination with a gun to your head. Right now is the time to think about Chinese character domain names.
Secondly, if someone took a domain name important to you and they are now offering to sell it to you, you essentially have three choices. One, let the domain name go. Two, buy it from the company that “took” it from you. And, three, pursue legal action against the company that took it from you.
Preemption by registration is your best and least expensive protection.
Nothing has changed since then, near as we can tell, other than that the popularity of these waxes and wanes.
So be careful out there.
UPDATE: We are now hearing of Chinese law firms sending out these warnings and offering to help people get their domains back. AVOID this scam at any cost because it appears to us that if you respond to express interest in getting help from this law firm, they will then run off and register your domain name and then charge you legal and other fees to get it “back” for you. In other words, if you do not express interest, they will not bother to spend the time and money to register your domain name. This same scam is being perpetrated with trademarks as well. Think about it. Good law firms — Chinese or otherwise, do not send emails like this.