By Helen Sloan
June 25 2012
While the majority of applications for the new gTLDs have been in Latin characters, a number of brand owners have used to opportunity to apply for internationalised domain names (IDNs). And out of the 116 IDN applications, the majority of these - around 70 - are in Chinese. Over half of these have come from Chinese companies, including 15 applications from internet registry Zodiac as well as leading domestic internet businesses Tencent and Sina. The international names that have applied for Chinese TLDs come from an interesting mix of sectors, ranging from technology to hotels: they include Wal-Mart, Amazon, Philips, Google, GE, Volkswagen, L’Oreal, Nokia, Shangri-la and Bridgestone. While many applicants have remained close-lipped, details about the motivations for applying are coming out – with trademark protection a key component.
The majority of these companies have opted for a simple transliteration of their brand name in Chinese characters. Amazon, however, has applied for a number other domains, including translations of the words ‘consumer electronics’,’ mail order’ and ‘food’ - a reflection of its wider gTLD strategy where the company has been one of the biggest overall applicant.
WTR approached a number of applicants to gain an insight into their motivations, and a spokesperson from Philips provided some insight into why the company decided to apply for ‘.phillips’ in Chinese characters. WTR was told: “China is our second home market. It is a huge market with important potential for Philips. Use of the internet is very popular and it could generate extra opportunities for our online business. Chinese often prefer to visit Chinese language sites and we would like to address these people directly.”
This is perhaps an obvious reason for applying, but the decision was not solely based on the opportunities for growing the customer base - protecting consumers from trademark deception is a key consideration for Philips: “In China, the combination of Latin characters are often recognized as a logo, rather than a word. This easily leads to trademark infringement of the word mark. Having the brand name in Chinese as a top level domain will guarantee that visitors coming in via the top level ‘.philips’ are at the genuine Philips site.”
WTR spoke to a number of other brand owners who were not able to give any details of their strategy in applying for Chinese registrations at this point. However, it seems fair to assume that the reasons outlined by Philips - appealing to China’s huge consumer base and being able to offer reassurance to customers that it is a genuine site – will likely be shared by other applicants.
There have also been applications for domains in other scripts including Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic and Korean, although in much smaller numbers than in Chinese. With the ICANN community currently in Prague, it will be interesting to see if more brands reveal their motivations for applying.
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