Disputes involving '.co' domain names on the rise


There has been an increasing number of disputes arising from the registration of domain names under the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) '.co'.

Following a decade of debates and consultations, earlier this year Colombia decided to liberalise the procedures governing the administration of the '.co' ccTLD: the existing burdens imposed on registrants were removed and registrations at the second level were allowed.

The liberalisation of the '.co' extension followed a well-defined structure, and gave priority to certain entities before opening registration to the general public. This plan was known as the '.CO Launch Plan' and was divided into four main stages:

  • Grandfathering period - only owners of existing third-level domain names were able to register the corresponding domain names under '.co'.
  • Sunrise period - the owners of trademarks registered in any country were able to register the corresponding domain names.
  • Landrush period - interested parties were able to register domain names that had not been registered during the grandfathering and sunrise periods.
  • General availability - as of July 20 2010, anyone can register domain names that were not registered during the previous periods.

Such a structure was put in place in order to ensure the protection of those who have, or may have, a legitimate interest in the registration of a domain name under the '.co' extension. Under the priority scheme, entities with earlier rights were able to secure a registration. However, despite this mechanism, some registrants with legitimate interests in the registration of a '.co' domain name have had their expectations frustrated by third-party registrations, some of them made in bad faith.

Even though the general availability period started only on July 20 2010, decisions involving '.co' domain names have already been issued by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) panels under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP):

In total, 26 complaints involving '.co' have been filed with WIPO:

  • in the abovementioned cases, the panel ordered that the domain name be transferred to the complainant;
  • 21 complaints are still pending; and
  • two complaints have been terminated.

Domain name disputes arising from the registration of '.co' domain names are increasing and will continue to increase, as the success of the '.co' extension has gone beyond expectations. Less than two months after the liberalisation of the extension, there had already been half a million registrations under '.co'.

This large amount of registrations is due in part to the widespread belief that registering a popular domain name will allow the registrant to make easy and fast money. However, the UDRP protects the interests of rights owners over those of third parties seeking economic profits. Therefore, a large number of complaints involving '.co' domain names are likely to be filed over the coming months. Most of these complaints will be a direct consequence of the perception that the opening of the '.co' extension represented an economic opportunity. Many law firms in Colombia are currently dealing with complaints seeking the transfer of '.co' domain names allegedly registered in bad faith.

Fernando Triana, Triana Uribe & Michelsen, Bogotá

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