Hong Kong launches domain monitoring service to protect online brands

Domain names are the most important form of online Intellectual Property (IP), as they represent a company’s online identity and business trademark. Therefore, domain name dispute resolution continues to soar.

According to the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, 170 out of 463 arbitration cases related to domain names were found in 2013, representing a 46 per cent increase compared to 2012.

To address this issue, the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC) launched .hk WATCH, the first .hk domain name monitoring service for brand owners around the world. With this new service, HKIRC will protect brand owners from possible abuse of their brands.

“Over the past few years, concerns about infringement using domain names has been on the rise, as more and more global brands have discovered that their domain names have been registered for malicious activities,” explained Jonathan Shea, CEO of HKIRC. “Brand infringers or cybersquatters use the brand names maliciously or even mimic a reputable company’s domain name, creating confusion for the public. In return, this impacts a company’s brand reputation, business and customer loyalty.”

The .hk WATCH service closely monitors .hk domain names to identify those which are identical, similar or feature common misspellings of a name, trademark or service mark, as well as those combining prefix/ suffix “wildcards” with trademarks, effectively tackling possible attempts of .hk domain names being used for cybersquatting and typosquatting activities.

This service also provides an initial report for subscribers, showing existing .hk domain names which resemble the brand name(s) or mark(s). The search runs daily, checking for newly registered .hk domain name that meets the search criteria. It keeps brand owners updated in a timely manner, alerting them if there is malicious activity. Service rate varies from few hundreds HK dollars to several thousand a year, depending on which HKIRC’s Accredited Registrar the users are contacting, also the search label’s length. The shorter the label, the higher the annual rate.

“Deploying .hk WATCH is the first step which provides an easy and affordable way for businesses to protect their online Intellectual Property, providing early notification (or warning) of  online brand infringement and helping maintain full control over the brand worldwide.” said Shea.

Cyber security incidents have continued to increase in recent years. According to the latest Global State of Information Security Survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the number of security incidents detected climbed to 42.8 million this year, an increase of 48 per cent from 2013.

According to the HKIRC, various other country code Top-level Domain (ccTLD) registries have been offering similar domain monitoring service, but .hk WATCH is the first such service for .hk domain names.

.hk WATCH only monitors “.hk” domain names, including all type of  2nd level and 3rd level of domain names such as .com.hk; .edu.hk, etc. Yet, it does not imply the search label must be ending with “.hk”. By using .hk WATCH service, customers with other Top Level Domains (TLDs) can find out all .hk domain names which are identical, similar or feature common misspellings of their search label(s), also those combining prefix/suffix ‘wildcards’.

The .hk WATCH service is now available to all brand owners. Please contact .hk registrar for details. Currently, the HKIRC Accredited Registrars below are providing this service.