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

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.