.co Top Level Domain Names Gain in Popularity

April 15, 2011

In July of 2010, domain name registries began allowing web site owners to register the top level domain “.co” as part of their domain name as an alternative to the ubiquitous “.com” top level domain. Prior to the July launch, the “.co” domain was restricted for use by the Columbian government, similar to the way that the United States government restricts the use of the “.us” domain name (to U.S. citizens or U.S.-based businesses). In July, the Columbian government loosened those restrictions and now allows certain domain name registries to issue domain names using the “.co” top level domain name to registrants registering domain names through their services.
While use of the “.co” top level domain name started out slow due to the increased registration fees involved with registering a domain name incorporating “.co”, its popularity has been increasing, with approximately 600,000 names incorporating “.co” being registered worldwide in the six months following its launch. During the first several months of 2011, several well-known companies also started concerted marketing campaigns focusing on the new top level domain name, with the most noticeable being GoDaddy.com, Inc. advertising “GoDaddy.co” during the 2011 Super Bowl and Overstock.com, Inc. rolling out “O.co” in January 2011.
As the use of the “.co” top level domain name increases in popularity, we recommend that you monitor, and potentially consider purchasing, your web site’s “.co” domain name in order to protect your branding and any trademark rights that you may have. Unfortunately, as use of the “.co” top level domain name increases in popularity, the likelihood that another party will begin using a domain name similar to yours, but using “.co” in place of “.com” in an attempt to direct your customers to other web sites, also increases.
While the expanded use of the “.co” top level domain name increases the range of choices for domain names, it also creates an opportunity for unethical parties to redirect confused customers to a competing web site, to take advantage of the branding efforts of existing businesses, or to infringe upon the trademark rights of trademark owners. Therefore, as the popularity of the “.co” top level domain name continues to rise, it will be increasingly important for domain name owners and trademark holders to monitor the “.co” equivalents of their web sites, brands, and trademarks. If you have questions regarding the above, please contact Derek Prestin, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Business Transactions Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

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