Canada: Domain Name Scams: Can You Ignore The Email You Received About A Company Applying To Register Your Mark As A Domain Name? GENERALLY YES!

Last Updated: June 24 2016
Article by Catherine Lovrics and Sharyn Costin

In recent years, we have received countless enquiries from clients worried about an email they received about a company trying to register their mark as a domain name or keyword, usually in China or Hong Kong. The emails usually take the following form:

This is a letter to confirm the registration of your company name [WELL KNOWN MARK], please read it thoroughly. Today, our center received an application from [MADE UP COMPANY, USUALLY STARTING WITH AN ACRONYM] and they applied to register [WELL KNOWN MARK] as their brand name and some top-level domain names (.CN .HK. .TW, .ASIA, etc).

We found the main body of domain names is same as your company name. I am not sure about the relationship between you and them.

We are dealing with the application and we need to confirm whether you have authorized them? If you don't authorize them, please reply me an e-mail. Looking forward to your reply.

OR

We mainly deal with IPR registration internationally. We received a formal application from a company who is called [MADE UP COMPANY] are applying to register the international trademark [WELL KNOWN MARK] on [YESTERDAY].

We checked and found the keyword is similar to your company's name. So we inform you to confirm whether you authorized the company registered the international trademark. If you have authorized, then we can finish registering for them as per our duty. If not, we hereby suspect the company to be a international trademark grabber. Please contact us by  telephone or email within 10 workdays, so we can better handle the issue.

OR

We have something to confirm with you. On [YESTERDAY], we received an application in which a company by the name [NAME] applied to register [WELL KNOWN MARK] as their Brand Name and some Asia domain names through our firm. 

Now we are handling this registration. After our initial checking, we found that the name are identical to your company's. We need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you have authorized this, we will finish the registration at once. If not, please let us know within 7 workdays, in which case we will discuss the matter more thoroughly. If not otherwise advised within that time limit we will proceed with the registration. We will be waiting for your reply.

We generally advise our clients that these emails are scams, and there is no need to reply.  These types of emails are usually mere attempts to fish for business, and nothing more.  To our knowledge, none of these emails (and there have been many) have turned out to be legitimate.

So, what should you do if you receive one of these emails?  First, start with the presumption that the email is suspect. Generally, domain name registrations are automated, and first-come, first-served. They are not subject to examination by registrars or registration service providers. In other words, there is typically no "application" that will be examined to determine if there are prior rights.  Second, there are several websites/blogs that talk about these scams. You can do a simple Google search to see if there are any websites that name the particular service provider or individual as being involved in this type of scam. Third, you can check for the existence of the entity named as trying to register the domain name. Lastly, you can search to see if the registration provider is an accredited registrar (for example, here and here).  If the registrar is accredited, the email is more likely to be legitimate. Taking these steps are likely to confirm you can ignore the email. 

At the same time, the email should serve as a reminder that there are people scoping for opportunities to cybersquat, especially in the case of well-known marks, and prompt you to check your domain name portfolio, and consider whether there are any gaps in key regions or on key top-level domain names.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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