.CO Domain Names Are Coming — Should You Care?

Colombia is known for its chief exports of coffee, petroleum and coal. It may also soon be known for its country code top-level domain name (ccTLD), .co. In many people’s minds, the abbreviation "co." stands for "company," "corporation," or "commercial," and the .co registry, .CO Internet SAS, is heavily marketing this domain as a legitimate alternative to .com domains for businesses and individuals. If .CO Internet has its way, .co will be the new .com. Of course, whether the .co domain will catch on remains to be seen, but trademark owners should be aware of some preliminary steps they can take to secure .co domains before they become available to the general public.

First, the Local Sunrise period, which is active now until April 20, allows holders of Colombian trademarks registered on or before July 30, 2008 to apply for exact-match domain names. Second, the Global Sunrise period, which runs from April 26, 2010 to June 10, 2010, will allow trademark holders with national registrations in other countries to apply for exact-match domain names. In each of these phases, domain names claimed by multiple verified trademark owners with identical marks will be sold via auction. Soon after the Global Sunrise period, .co domain names will be available to the general public. Additional information is available at the .CO Internet launch website.

In addition, there are other rights-protection mechanisms (RPMs) in place to protect trademark owners, and the .co registry has drafted An Open Letter To Brand Owners explaining these safeguards. Like many other top-level domains, the .co domain will be subject to the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP), and the .co registry intends to implement a Uniform Rapid Suspension system for cases of clear abuse. In many respects, the .co registry has implemented or intends to implement many of the RPMs that have been recommended for ICANN’s upcoming gTLD expansion. Brand owners should keep this in mind in developing and implementing their domain name policing strategies.

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