For franchise companies considering development in China, India and other Asian countries, protection of intellectual property is one of the most important aspects of any planned expansion. In addition to trademark and service mark registration, there is the added issue of domain name registration. Certainly, obtaining country code top-level domain name registrations for each target country (e.g., .cn for China, .tw for Taiwan) is important. However, there is another domain name extension that franchise companies should be aware of: .asia.
"Dot-asia" domain names are not yet in use. Instead, those names are currently being made available as part of a sunrise registration process that allows trademark owners to pre-register before the "dot-asia" domain names are made available to the general public. As with the ".biz" domain name registration process several years ago, this sunrise registration period allows trademark owners the opportunity to secure domain names containing their intellectual property during a pre-registration period. This process circumvents the risk of cybersquatters and domain name clearinghouses seizing those names before the trademark owners can complete registrations. As a result, trademark owners can avoid the inconvenience and expense of attempting to force cybersquatters to give up the name either through negotiations (often with a premium payment) or litigation.
The pre-registration sunrise period is currently under way and runs through January 15, 2008. Thereafter, applications for pre-registration from non-trademark owners will be considered (with auction of domain names sought by more than one applicant) in February 2008; first-come, first-served general public availability will commence in March 2008.
All that is required for pre-registration by a trademark owner is submission of an application to one of the DotAsia Organisation accredited registrars, which includes information regarding and evidence of the trademark owner's registered mark(s). In addition to pre-registering domain names that are identical to the owner's mark(s), a trademark owner can register domain names that include both the mark and words that describe the goods or services for which the mark is registered. For example, Honda Motor Company could register HONDA.asia as well as HONDACARS.asia and HONDAMOTORCYCLES.asia.
The deadline for pre-registration is fast approaching. Given the substantial amount of domain name squatting that originates in Asia, trademark owners who are considering development in Asia would be well-served to secure their "dot-asia" domain names during this sunrise period as part of their overall strategy for managing their trademark portfolios.