What Is An Internet Trademark?
As a Web Developer, I receive a fair amount of unsolicited email My spam folder doesn't catch all of it, as some of it is not sent by a "bot", but rather by an actual human spammerAs a Web Developer, I receive a fair amount of unsolicited email. My spam folder doesn't catch all of it, as some of it is not sent by a "bot", but
rather by an actual human spammer.
Recently though, I received an email that I wasn't sure about. Someone claiming to be a Chinese web registrar for Domain name sent me the following email:
We are the department of registration service in China. we have something need to confirm with you. We formally received an application on June 19th 2009, One company which self-styled "Real Company Holding Inc." are applying to register "my domain" as internet trademark and Asian domain names as below :
After our initial examination, we found that the internet brand applied for registration are as same as your company's name and trademark.These days we are dealing with it, hope to get the affirmation from your company. If your company and this"Real Name Holding Inc."as the same company,there is no need reply to us.
In addition, we hereby affirm that our time limit for dissent application is 7 days. If your company files no dissent within the time limit, we will unconditionally approve the application submitted by "Real Name Holding Inc".
Thanks for your cooperation.
Head of Sales
I read over the thing, and it looked real enough, until I did some research on the companies in question. They appear to be real for 3 reasons:
1. The company that they say is trying to acquire your domain names in Asia is always a large, legitimate company operating in Asia.
2. The use of urgent sounding language, including the legal sounding terminology of "Internet Trademark".
3. They say that you can file a form to protect your rights. If you don't want to do anything, you don't have to. It makes it seem like they don't care whether or not you answer. (*note: I have received two of these communications so far. One guy said 5 days, the other said 7.)
Before I go further, let me say for the record, that this is a giant scam.
How do I know? Well, first I took a look at enforceable trademark law. The truth about trademark law is that it is not enforceable internationally, at least with any consistency.
Sure,if you are McDonalds, you probably could probably have the legal staff to make sure your trademark can't be infringed in China, and to get your domain names back if someone steals them from you online.
However, there are two places where trademark infringement can be reliably prosecuted: The USA, and the European Union. Anywhere outside of that, you are going to be running up against increasingly vague intellectual property laws. You can always lodge a protest with ARIN, who regulates domain names, but results will be mixed.
Secondly, there is no such thing as an internet trademark. In fact, if you wish to use a domain name for a trademark (e.g. http://BankRate.com), there are some very specific rules that apply. Many of the domain names that people would wish to trademark (e.g. http://Pizza.com>, http://Carseats.com) are to generic to even qualify under US law.
Thirdly, and this is the most important, I requested a copy of the "dispute form". It contained greatly inflated fees for domain registration ($50 per year, per domain), and a $100 internet trademark registration fee, per year.
While some registrars do charge more for international registrations, the most I have ever been charged, even for an obscure country is $35 a year, and that was more than I should have payed, as other sites are cheaper.
Then, they offered to perform a "legal service", for a product that doesn't even exist. Trademarks are in effect for a great deal of time, and they sure don't require $100 a year of upkeep and maintenance.
So, how do I know for sure that this is a scam? After they sent me two emails in a row, badgering me to respond, and telling me that the clock was ticking, I finally did. It just wasn't the response that they were expecting.
I told them I knew that this was a scam, and that it was a shame that they weren't located in the US, where they could be prosecuted for fraud. I also stated that I was going to expose their little scheme to the world, which is what I am doing here.
I received no further communication from the Head of Sales for that company.
Just remember this one rule when you are trying to determine whether something is a scam or not: If you've never heard of something before, and it sounds urgent, ask them to point you to a legal statute that confirms what they are saying. The legitimate ones will be patient, and able to back things up with cold, hard facts.
Also, the Sales Department won't contact you with things that are of any legal import.
One more tip: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. No one who puts their hope in Him will ever be ashamed.
Kurt Hartman is Head of Web Development for Mobile Fleet Service, Inc. His company sells tires for the mining and heavy equipment industries. They sell tires for many applications, including loader and haul truck tyres . Their site is located at http://www.buybigtires.com