How Baidu Won the Battle of Domain Name Squatting in China?
Tags: IPRs, SMBs and SMEs
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Squatters are always on the lookout for opportunities
The world of the internet can be a wild place, with some people always on the lookout for opportunities to make a quick buck. One of the most common ways they do this is through domain name squatting, also known as cybersquatting. Domain name squatting involves registering a domain name that is similar or identical to a brand or product of another. In most cases, squatters often propose to sell it back to the rightful owner at a premium price.
However, there is hope for companies and individuals who fall victim to such unscrupulous practices. Small business owners and eCommerce merchants can get back squatted domain names within 60 days with the help of Trustiics lawyers. Check out how an Amazon seller got back his domain name with the help of Mr. Hong Zheng.
Record-breaking speed of domain name squatting
The largest search engine in China, Baidu, was recently involved in a domain name dispute. Breaking the record of domain name squatting, an individual registered the domain name wenxinyiyan.com just six minutes after Baidu announced the official name of its ChatGPT-like product “文心一言” (ERNIE Bot in English) or “Wen Xin Yi Yan” to the Chinese public. Shortly after, the squatter offered to sell the domain name for over US$25,000 (RMB 180,000).
Taking immediate legal action when facing domain name squatting
The domain name wenxinyiyan was the main point of contention in the dispute between Baidu and the squatter. Baidu immediately hired their go-to legal counsel Mr. Hong Zheng to help with the case. Mr. Zheng is a registered lawyer on Trustiics and a partner lawyer at Beijing Tee & Howe Intellectual Property Law Office, and has tremendous experience in handling trademark, domain name, copyright, and patent issues in China.
After two weeks of preparation and evidence collection, Mr. Zheng submitted a domain name dispute complaint to the Beijing Secretariat of the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (ADNDRC).
Evidence to prove the legitimate right to the domain name
Mr. Zheng needed to prove Baidu’s legitimate priority right to a domain name. Trademark registration or prior use usually supports such a claim. But Baidu’s product name “Wen Xin Yi Yan” was new and unregistered.
As an alternative approach, Mr. Zheng tried to prove the name had established a widely-accepted market reputation. Therefore, it should be protected as a “service name with high influence” under PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law if agreed upon by the arbitral panel.
In order to prove market recognition, his team found news reports and coverage from various sources, including websites, media, social platforms, and video platforms.
Domain name transferred back to the legitimate owner
The Panelists were convinced by Mr. Zheng’s argument that “Wen Xin Yi Yan” had acquired a high reputation in the market, and was closely connected to Baidu. The squatter’s bad faith was evident as they offered to sell the domain name for $25,000 right after registration.
The Panelists upheld all of Mr. Zheng’s arguments and ruled to transfer the domain name to Baidu.
This case is a reminder that companies, including small businesses and eCommerce merchants, need to protect their brands and online presence.
- They should register domain names for their company and important products.
- Applying for trademark registration is crucial as it provides protection and evidence in domain name disputes.
- If you face domain name squatting in China, act quickly and seek legal assistance. You should do so even if you don’t have a business in the Chinese market.
Check out a previous blog on Trustiics to learn Four Ways to Fight Cybersquatting in China.
The internet is a vast and complex space. Companies need to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their online presence. Trustiics connects clients to Chinese lawyers for collecting evidence and domain name arbitration, with an estimated cost of $3,000-$4,000. Clients can retrieve their domain name within three months.
The platform is based in Canada and is included on the list of qualified service providers of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Services. It has vetted over 300 experienced lawyers in China, Canada, the U.S., Brazil, and most recently India.
About the Lawyer – Hong Zheng, IP Lawyer in Beijing
Hong Zheng is a registered lawyer on Trustiics and a partner at Tee & Howe, an IP law firm in China. He has 20 years of experience advising international businesses in protecting their intellectual property rights in China. His practice covers all the sub-areas of IP law, trademarks, copyright, patent, trade secrets, and domain names.
Mr. Zheng has extensive experience handling domain name disputes in China. He has 100% success in helping clients address squatting issues and claim back domain names.