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As part of our global launch plan, .CO Internet has worked very hard to ensure that the rights of trademark owners would be respected and protected within the .CO domain. Among other things, this included implementing a variety of Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) to safeguard the intellectual property rights of brand owners – and to protect the integrity of the entire .CO namespace.
One innovative RPM that we are very proud of is the .CO Specially Protected Marks Program, or “SPM.” The program kicked off in March, just prior to the start of the Sunrise process, and concluded just this week. The purpose of the SPM was to give some of the world’s leading brands the opportunity to secure their corresponding .CO domain name(s) without the commensurate time, fees and other expenses typically associated with the trademark validation process.
In implementing the SPM, the biggest challenge we faced was how to define “which” companies should be granted this special protected status. We debated using the Inter-brand 100 list and/or other public lists of “top brands” – but none seemed to fit our needs perfectly.
Luckily, the world-leading consulting firm Deloitte had just what the doctor ordered! Known the world-over for its expertise in defining and executing innovative RPMs, Deloitte created its own “top 100 brand list” – called the “Deloitte Brand List” or “DBL.” Using criteria independently defined, interpreted and applied by Deloitte in collaboration with Bart Lieben of the Belgian law firm Laga, the brands included on the DBL were determined to have distinguished themselves among their peers for the proactive measures they have taken to safeguard and enforce their trademark rights on the Internet – and in the domain name space in particular.
While the .CO SPM was never intended to achieve all of the broad benefits conceived for the “Globally Protected Marks” List (GPML) that continues to be hotly debated within the ICANN community – our ultimate purpose was the same. Our intention was simply to ease the burden and expense typically associated with defensive registrations for the world’s leading brands.
Did we achieve our goal? Yes, I believe that we did! I’m happy to report that as of today, we have had a 100% participation rate in the .CO SPM– with all of the brands identified on the DBL currently having secured or in the process of securing their corresponding .CO domains – including brands like Facebook, Ferrari, Blackberry, Siemens, Sanyo, Amazon, Honda, GAP and Barbie to name just a few.
Was the .CO SPM perfect? I can say with great confidence that it certainly was NOT! (Just ask all the brand owners that were not included in the DBL list for some reason or another – and I’m sure they’ll agree!) The reality is that we knew going into this that being the first domain registry to implement some form of “protected marks list” would open us up to some criticism. With little precedent to guide us, and lots of different opinions about the “right” way to do things – we knew it would be impossible to make everyone happy.
Even though ICANN has yet to reach a consensus on a workable solution for implementing a GPML, one of our company’s core philosophies is that “it’s better to light a match than to curse the darkness…” And so, even though we could not consider every possible interest, risk and/or concern, we decided to plow ahead and to give it our best shot. We’re so glad that we did.
While the program was not perfect, the feedback from brand owners and industry leaders has been positive. We hope that our small success with the SPM will help to pave the way for other TLDs to launch similar GPML-like initiatives that will both protect the rights of brand owners and help to allay some of the lingering concerns by the business community about the launch of the new gTLDs.