A Chinese man has been snapping up dozens of domain names related to popular American start-ups and is seeking to trademark some of the names in the US and China.
Qian Jin of Nanjing, China, has applied to register marks like Foursquare, Twitter, Quora and Instagram and has also bought dozens of websites like Pinterests.com and Pinterest.de
Qian’s activities are described in a lawsuit filed by Pinterest last week in San Francisco. In its complaint, the popular image site says the defendant is a “serial cyber-squatter who has registered and owns hundreds of infringing domain names.” The company points to Qian’s “Pinterests.com“, a site that uses red-lettering similar to Pinterest but that appears to be just a dumping ground for advertisements.
While this type of cyber-squatting has been around for years, the Chinese efforts stand out because they appear to systematically target up-and-coming internet firms, and because of the trademark applications.
While firms like Pinterest can challenge the trademark filings in the US if they are not in good faith, the situation in China is murkier. Increasingly, Chinese firms are obtaining questionable trademarks and successfully asserting them against companies like Apple (s aapl). Peter Toren, a former prosecutor and Washington intellectual property lawyer, has previously described some of the cases against Apple as “a stick-up.”
Pinterest is asking the San Francisco court for damages and for an order barring Qian Jin or his associates from using its name. The company also wants the court to instruct the US Patent and Trademark Office to refuse the applications for “Pinterest” and “Pinterests.”
Here are some of the other names Pinterest is trying to reclaim, followed by a copy of its court complaint: