Soft launch period starts for Chinese '.hk' domain names
The soft launch period for the registration of Chinese language '.hk' country-code top-level domain names started on September 28. Domain names can be registered in the following categories: '.hk', '.hk' ('.idv.hk'), '.hk' ('.com.hk'), '.hk' ('.org.hk'), '.hk' ('.net.hk'), '.hk' ('.gov.hk') and '.hk' ('.edu.hk'). It is possible to register Chinese domain names in both simplified and traditional character forms (but not a combination of both). Chinese domain names may also contain English letters, numbers or symbols. A Chinese domain name registration covers all character variations of the subject domain name. For example, the registration of '.hk' will also cover and preclude the simultaneous registration by a third party of '.hk', '.hk', '.hk' and '.hk'.
Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company Limited (HKDNR), the '.hk' domain name administrator, introduced a three-tiered priority period during which Chinese domain names will be allocated to applicants not on the usual first come, first served basis, but rather on the basis of prior trademark and/or English '.hk' domain name registrations or on the basis of a random draw. Applications received during each phase of the soft launch period will be processed together and allocated in accordance with the special requirements and procedures set out in the Soft Launch Period Rules (which supplement the original rules). At the end of each phase of the soft launch period, the allocation results for that phase will be announced and members of the public will be given an opportunity to file objections before the registrations become effective. HKDNR will provide dispute resolution services during the soft launch period.
During the priority period (indicated as being from September 28 to November 10 2006), owners of Hong Kong registered trademarks containing one or more Chinese characters will be entitled to apply for a Chinese domain name. Where two or more eligible trademark owners apply for the same Chinese domain name, priority will be given to the applicant holding an English '.hk' domain name in the same domain name category, or the applicant whose English '.hk' domain name has the earliest priority date. Where none of the applicants has an English '.hk' domain name in the same domain name category, the allocation will be made by random draw.
During the pre-registration period (from December 4 2006 to January 5 2007), holders of English '.hk' domain names will be entitled to apply for a Chinese domain name in the same category as their existing English domain name. Where two or more holders of English '.hk' domain names apply for the same Chinese domain name, priority will be given to the applicant whose intended Chinese domain name is sufficiently similar, phonetically or semantically, to its registered English '.hk' domain name. Evidence of sufficient similarity, having regard to criteria specified in the Soft Launch Period Rules, will need to be submitted at the time of making an application. Where two or more eligible domain name holders apply for the same Chinese domain name, priority will be given to the applicant whose application is based on the English '.hk' domain name having the earliest priority date.
During the sunrise period (from January 29 to February 9 2007), anyone may apply for a Chinese domain name. The allocation of all Chinese domain names applied for during the sunrise period will be by random draw.
All brand owners with a presence in the People's Republic of China or Hong Kong should consider applying to register a Chinese domain name to reflect their brand in Chinese. At the conclusion of the soft launch period, on or around March 8 2007, the registration of Chinese domain names will be open to the public.
Registration of Chinese domain names by eligible applicants during the soft launch period is therefore recommended to protect brand owners against the potential hijacking of their names and trademarks by cybersquatters.
Gabriela Kennedy, Lovells, Hong Kong
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