SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Baidu.com Inc., often described as “China’s Google”, has bumped up against an obstacle that the real Google has long grown accustomed to: cybersquatters on its first overseas venture.
Beijing-based Baidu, which controls more than half of the Web search market in China -- the world’s second-largest after the United States -- last month started up Japanese portal www.baidu.jp as its first regular service outside its home market.
But now it has a ghost: www.baidu.co.jp.
The spartan Web site, which carries the name “CBC Company” in Japanese, has a note at the top on its front page that reads: “Our company has absolutely no connection with Japan Baidu K.K. and is a legal Japanese corporation.”
The page also offers four links to different units: an imported watches division, a used car division, a Chinese restaurant and an industrial waste division.
The Web site carries a link to a Chinese translation, and another to a user log, which claimed that 160 users had clicked a total of 286 times on www.baidu.co.jp by midday on Monday.
The Web site of the Japan Intellectual Property Arbitration Center (www.ip-adr.gr.jp) shows that Baidu lodged a complaint with the centre, which last month issued a ruling that the domain name should be transferred to Baidu.
A Baidu representative declined to comment on Monday, and a CBC official could not be reached for comment.
Google Inc. already offers Web search services in Japanese (www.google.co.jp) and Korean (www.google.co.kr).
But it also is facing a so-called doppelganger, or a ghostly double, in China. The site, www.Gmail.cn, uses a name and logo that closely resemble Google’s internationally known e-mail service, www.gmail.com.
The “.cn” suffix is commonly used for Chinese domain names.
A legal source told Reuters in February that Google was trying to buy the Internet domain name www.gmail.cn, which is run by Beijing-based Internet domain registrar ISM Technologies, which refuses to sell it to the U.S. company.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the company would take legal action against ISM Technologies over the domain name.
Google already owns Web addresses www.google.com.cn and www.google.cn, aimed at China’s 137 million Web users.
Google is embroiled in legal action, launched earlier this year, against a group of Polish poets to stop them from using the Web address www.gmail.pl, European news reports have said.
Additional reporting by George Chen and Edmund Klamann