13 May 2008.
In recent months, unknown organizations in China have been sending emails to companies in the United
States claiming that the company's intellectual property (IP) rights are in jeopardy if it does not
register domain names and/or keywords that are similar to or incorporate the company's trademarks. This
deceptive business practice, which is designed to induce the recipient into registering new names with
the organization, is not new and is a type of "domain slamming." Tactics used by these organizations include:
Claiming that a third party has applied to register the domain name/keyword; and/or
Claiming that the organization is affiliated with an official governmental entity, such as the China Internet
Network Information Center (CNNIC), which is the agency charged with management of .CN domain names.
These communications are dangerous because the sender organizations have been known to:
Include fraudulent clauses in their purchase agreements, such as long-term registrations
and subscriptions to additional unwanted services;
Sell the domain name and/or keyword registrations at above-market prices;
Collect money but never register the domain names and/or keywords; and/or
Attach viruses to subsequent communications.
What does it look like?
While the text of these communications varies, an example of a typical email is:
We are [Insert Chinese Company Name], which is affiliated with the domain name register center in China.
We received a formal application from a company that is applying to register your company brand as their
domain name and Internet keyword in China. If you consider these domain names and internet keywords important
to you it is necessary to protect them by registering them first.
Contact us immediately,
[Insert name and seemingly reliable contact details]
What should you do?
In order to best protect your company's IP interests, as well as prevent these organizations from defrauding
it, we recommend the following steps:
1. Do not respond to the communication. As explained above, these organizations are engaged in deceptive
business practices and should not be trusted.
2. Contact your domain name manager (i.e. the internal or external person or company responsible
for your domain name portfolio). In many cases your company already has registered the domain names/keywords
in these emails. If not, ask your domain name manager or IP counsel to assist in registering the names you
are interested in with a reputable source. Do not attempt to register the domain names with the organization
that contacted you.
3. File a complaint. Once you have contacted your domain name manager to discuss any additional
registrations of interest, consider filing a complaint against the organization with the China Ministry
of Information, which encourages affected companies to file complaints so that it can take appropriate
Who to Contact
For more information about domain name and keyword slamming, and how Ballard's Intellectual Property group
can help you and your organization identify, protect or leverage the full value of your intellectual property,
Jamie B. Bischoff,
partner in charge, Intellectual Property Group, at 215.864.8207,
Hara K. Jacobs
Brian J. Winterfeldt