"co" is the country code top-level domain assigned to Colombia. It is significant to brand owners because Internet users searching for brand owners' Web sites frequently mistype ".com" as ".co." For example, it is estimated that "google.co" receives approximately 15,000 hits per day. Previously, Colombia restricted access to ".co" and only allowed registration to the public in the third level under ".com.co" (i.e., BRAND.COM.CO), ".net.co", and ".org.co". Furthermore, to be eligible for registration of one of these domain names, the applicant must be a registered company in Colombia, and if the domain name is not the same as the registered company name, the applicant must have a trademark registration identical to the desired domain name.

However, Colombia has a new manager for ".co" that as of Feb. 7, 2010 removed all restrictions for registration of third-level ".co" domain names. Columbia also announced that it will begin offering second-level registrations directly under ".co" (i.e., BRAND.CO) and will market ".co" as a generic top-level domain like ".com", which means that Internet users who are searching for your Web site and mistype ".co" instead ".com" may actually end up at a domain name. Accordingly, if a third party registers the ".co" domain name corresponding to your brands and existing ".com" domain registrations before you do, they could exploit your brand and capture all of the traffic intended for your Web site.

The proposed ".co" rollout will occur in four phases. From April 26 through June 10, those that have registered trademarks outside of Colombia (before July 30th, 2008) will be able to register domains identical to those marks under ".co". After that time, anyone will be able to request a domain under ".co" without any proof of rights.

Tip: Brand owners should protect their rights by registering their brands as ".co" domain names during the sunrise period. This may represent the only opportunity for trademark owners to protect their rights and prevent squatters from registering their brands as ".co" domain names and capturing valuable Internet traffic intended for their Web site.