Most domain name scams in China begin with an email. A business owner sees an official-looking subject line and opens it, either out of worry or mere curiosity. Inside is an urgent-looking message that informs you that another company has registered your domain name, or that you are in danger of losing your domain name.

The domain owners were usually given a seven-day window to reply and raise their claim over the domains before the same is handed over to fictitious companies. The purpose of these scam messages is to create a sense of urgency for the domain owners to leap on the offer in an attempt to solicit business.

Please note that it is a scam and do not fall for it.

Granted, these emails could incite you to be aggressive in protecting your intellectual property. However, before you do so, it is worthwhile evaluating the value of the domain names and the costs for registering them, because not all of the domain names may appear to be important to you.

Multiple clients of ours have forwarded us domain name emails that appear to be scams, and requested our assistance. It happens more often than you would think.

On the other hand, these scam emails serve as a warning or wake-up call to foreign enterprises who are unfamiliar with the China trademark system and do not see the necessity of registering their trademarks in China. For instance, we strongly advised that a client of ours, with which we were assisting in setting up a wholly foreign owned enterprise in China, register their trademarks before officially entering the Chinese market. The client did not seem to be concerned about protecting their trademarks, despite that we informed the client that there are people in China who would do nothing except sit all day trolling the internet for trademarks owned by foreign companies. However, one day upon receiving a domain name scam, the client realized the urgency and seriousness in protecting their IP.

Another type of scams in China which are just as serious as domain name scams is trademark scams. A lot of trademark owners are contacted by entities through emails or facsimiles who claim to be trademark agents in China, and inform the trademark owners that someone has just applied for identical trademarks but in respect of non-identical goods or services. Then they suggest that if the trademark owners act quickly, a pre-application opposition procedure could be initiated to stop the applicants from successfully registering these trademarks.

In reality, there is no such pre-application opposition procedure in China for blocking a trademark application. According to China trademark law, whoever files an application first will become its lawful owner as long as the trademark has not been registered and does not violate Chinese law.

Recently, we have been approached by a client of ours when the client received a Facebook message that states “Be careful, someone has registered your trademark.” That was the entire message, and it sounded fishy. It could be from a scammer or a trademark squatter himself. This type of unsolicited messages is intended to elicit engagement from the trademark owner. The trademark owner, if unfamiliar with trademark practice in China, may act impulsively and fall for the scam.

In addition, it is unethical for a legitimate entity to disclose trademark applications it handles on behalf of its existing clients. That further proves that the unsolicited messages discussed above are scams. It would be wise for trademark owners to become familiar with the trademark practice with assistance from their counsel, or seek professional advice immediately upon receiving such emails before taking any action.

In conclusion, when you receive an urgent-looking email notifying you that you are about to lose your IP from an unknown source, do not act on it, and instead seek advice from your local counsel or your domain registrar if applicable.

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