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. Not us, as we just figure that the scammers that send out these emails pay off Chinese customs officials for the names of foreigners entering China.
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, we learned that this name conflicts 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.
DO NOT RESPOND. 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.
If you get one of these the first thing you should do is 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. Now is the time to think about Chinese character domain names.
Preemption by registration is by far your best and least expensive protection.
We lately are also seeing low level Chinese law firms sending out these warnings and offering to help people get their domains back. AVOID this scam at any cost becauseif 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 a ton in legal and other fees to get it “back” for you. In other words, if you do not express interest, they will probably not bother to spend the time and money to register your domain name. This same scam is being perpetrated with trademarks as well.
Good Chinese law firms do not send emails like this.