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Lawsuits.co: Easily Confused Domain Name Leads to Disputes

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 01, 2016 3:57 PM

Way back in March, you might have seen a story about agitators who were paid over $3,000 a person to protest outside Trump rallies. Or maybe you spotted the story about President Obama limiting American gun ownership to three guns per person, max? None of them were true, but you could be forgiven for being duped. Both came from ABC.com.co, a fake news website designed to trick the unsuspecting.

And when it comes to .co's, it's easy to confuse them for .com's. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why .co domains are the number one non-.com source of disputes before the World Intellectual Property Organization, as Doug Isenberg reports on Gigalaw blog.

Is It .co for Colombia, or for Con?

Interestingly, .co is not even a generic top-level domain, like .law or .beer. Instead, it's a country code, indicating that the website is associated with Colombia; .co is to Colombia as .fr is to France. Unlike .law and .beer, which pretty much anyone can buy up, country code TLDs have different requirements, depending on who is responsible for operating the domains. For example, to get a .ca domain, for Canada, you must have a presence in the frozen north.

For Colombia's .co's, you simply have to pay about $13 USD.

Since .co is so easily confused with .com, it's often the choice of cybersquatters and fraudsters, whether they're fake news sites or worse.

Number One in Disputes -- and Losses

So far this year, 29 .co domains have been disputed under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, according to Gigalaw. That's more than any non-.com TLD. And .co has been on the top of the dispute list ever since it was introduced, in 2010. No other country code comes up with such regularity. (Though, Isenberg points out, Tuvalu's .tv domains get disputed every now and then, too.)

There's good news to those fighting a .co doppelganger, though. Complaints always win. For websites like traderjoes.co and 7eleven.co, UDRP panels disregard the domain name difference and routinely find that .co websites have used "identical or confusingly similar" marks to which complaints have the rights.

But, before you get too excited about .co's, keep in mind, .com's are still where the big disputes are. The World Intellectual Property Organization has overseen 1,464 .com disputes this year, or more than 50 times as many as .co's.

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