By David M. Kramer

A new opportunity is on the horizon for brand owners seeking to expand their online presence in China. Starting September 15, 2012, owners of a valid trademark registration will be able to register .中国 (or “.CHINA”) domain names corresponding to their registered marks.

Although the top-level domain extension features Chinese characters, only Latin-character domain names, such as “”, will be available for registration. In order to qualify for registration during the initial sunrise period, prospective registrants must meet a number of criteria:

The registrant must own a valid trademark registration (in any country) for a mark identical to the proposed domain name.

The trademark registration must cover a plain block letter version of the mark (registrations including figurative elements or design marks are not acceptable).

The trademark can cover Latin characters or Chinese characters. If the mark is composed of Chinese characters, only a pinyin version of the mark is acceptable.

In addition to these trademark requirements, a number of formality documents are also required to obtain a registration under this new top-level domain, including company formation documents and a signed letter of commitment.

The initial sunrise period will close on October 11, 2012. Because trademark registrations from any jurisdiction are acceptable, it is possible that conflicting claims could be made on some domain names. Thus, if you wish to take advantage of this opportunity, we recommend acting quickly as registrations will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

For non-trademark holders, a second sunrise period will open on October 14, 2012. On that date, registration will open to owners of existing domain name registrations under the currently-existing .cn country code top-level domains. Finally, at some point in late October or early November 2012, general availability will commence.

For more specific information about the application process, or to discuss the possibility of moving forward with an application for a new .中国 domain name, please contact us.