Beat the Cybersquatter as ".co" Domain Names Open Up

Ashlee Froese is an Osgoode Hall alumnus and currently practices intellectual property at the law firm of Keyser Mason Ball LLP.

The “.co” domain name has long been a favourite of cybersquatters and typosquatters alike, individuals who profit off the misdirection of online traffic/consumers who intend to visit a specific brand’s online space [for example, BRAND.COM (the legitimate website) v. BRAND.CO (the unauthorized pay per click website)]. 

Until recently, the “.co” top level domain was the country code of Columbia (akin to Canada’s “.ca” top level domain).  Its likeness to the “.com” top level domain (the most used top level domain) made the registration of “.co” domain names a likely target for domain name hijackers.

The online world is currently going through massive changes, with the introduction of new top level domains and internationalized domain names.  This recent change to “.co” domain names can now be added to the mix. 

The categorization of the “.co” domain name is changing from a country code top level domain name to a generic top level domain name.  What does this mean to the brand owner?  Any entity can register “.co” domain names, rather than those that qualify under the Columbian registrability requirements, which creates more opportunity for the cybersquatters.  Given the likeness to the “.com” domain name and also the fact that “.co” is an acronym for “company”, it is likely that this new top level domain name will become quite popular.

The availability of the “.co” domain name opens up on April 26, 2010 and will be available in 3 phases.   Brand owners are protected under the Sunrise Period, whereby any owner of a registered trade-mark (which was registered before July 30, 2008), can essentially stake their claim to the “.co” domain name that is identical to their registered trade-marks.  The Sunrise Period extends from April 26, 2010 to June 10, 2010.  The following phase (which runs June 21 to July 13, 2010) is a free for all, whereby any entity can apply for the domain name.  Where multiple requests for an identical “.co” are made, the domain name will be acquired through an auction process.  Finally, after July 20, 2010, the “.co” domain names will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Act quickly if you want to secure your brand’s rightful online space.  With over 1.7 billion online users, it is hard to dismiss the online media as it is one of the most powerful tools for your brand.

3 Comments
  1. Ashlee,

    Thank you for the interesting and timely article on the relaunch of the .CO ccTLD.

    I found it interesting that you mention that ‘the “.co” domain name has long been a favourite of cybersquatters and typosquatters alike’. Considering this TLD is only now opening second level registrations I doubt that cyber- and typosquatters would have been able to profit off this domain so far, since they would have not been able to register domains directly under the .CO TLD.

    You wote ‘Until recently, the “.co” top level domain was the country code of Columbia’: It still is the country code for Columbia, that has not changed. It is just being marketed as a TLD that is open to everyone, similar to .CC or .TV, but the classification of the domain name itself remains a ccTLD.

    I agree on your conclusion that brands should consider registering the equivalent of their .COM domain in the .CO ccTLD if they want to be sure not to miss any misstypes of their domain name, just like they should probably register the .CM equivalent. It may in the end be cheaper than trying to gain control of those domains via dispute.

    All the best from Montreal,
    /FM

  2. Hello Ashley,

    I appreciate your comments. My name is Juan Diego Calle and I’m the CEO for the new .CO registry.

    I have to agree with Mr. Michlick above on all counts. Until now, .CO was limited to third level domains such as widgets.com.co or widgets.net.co.

    For the launch of second level registrations, as an IP attorney, I think you and your clients will appreciate the rights protection mechanisms (RPMs) we are implementing to keep the space clean. Quite frankly, .CO’s RPM’s go beyond what any other registry has done in the past. These efforts have been recognized by the industry and I encourage you to take a look at some of the comments made about this in the World Trademark Review.

    From business standpoint, we are very excited about the prospects for .CO. While there are plenty of TLD options out there, .CO is truly global and recognizable – as you referenced in your post, there is wide recognition of .CO to mean “company” or other commercial venture. Additionally it’s already in use in more the 20 ccTLDs (.co.uk, etc.) around the world. This differentiates us from other ccTLDs that have been marketed as TLDs and provides an important distinction for registrants who need a global footprint. Beyond that, there’s a credible and robust operation behind it; from our partners in technology to the people running every aspect of our business, if you do a bit of research on our site you’ll find that we are building this company for the long term.

    Best Regards,

    Juan Diego Calle

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