A new (.tel) TLD, a new day for cybersquatters.

Based upon this press release (pdf), Telnic, a British company, is offering a new top-level domain (TLD) “.tel”.

“.tel” is a slightly different domain– According to the Telnic website, “The value of a .tel domain lies with the ability to host personal (or corporate) contact information directly in the DNS, which can then be universally accessible. This stands in contrast to the typical use of the DNS for other TLDs, in which the DNS only provides a mapping between domain names and IP addresses.” For individuals, Telnic can host a page that if accessed, provides contact information for a multitude of devices.  For companies, Telnic provides specialized pages for contacting the business, creating an on-line voting system, etc.

“.tel” domains are supposed to be There is a very limited “sunrise” period, where businesses with registered trademarks get first shot at new domains in the “.tel” TLD. Anyone who applied for a trademark by May 30, 2008, and who has achieved a registration at the time the entity applies for the domain, may apply for domains in the new TLD.  So, trademark owners, if you want to protect yourself in yet another TLD, you have until February 2, 2009 to do so. In addition, trademark owners may also challenge another entity’s registration in the Sunrise period.

A couple of thoughts: (1) Because this top level domain is not maintained by a U.S. company, it may be more difficult to bring cybersquatting actions under U.S. law against a cybersquatter.  In other words, it will be more difficult later to challenge someone who wrongfully acquires a confusing domain name. That’s an extra incentive to register the domain now.  (2) During the “sunrise” period, Telnic uses a “verification agent” to verify that the domain applied for, and the domain name must be “identical” to the registered trademark (excepting spaces, punctuation and diacriticals).  I wonder if the trademark owner could include the “.tel” suffix as part of the claim of being “identical.”  In other words, can Microtel (the hotel chain) register “Micro.tel”? or “Microtel.tel”? or both?  This is certainly not uncommon– look at the “famous” bookmark site del.icio.us (which now redirects to delicious.com).  With my search, I found 2888 records in the USPTO’s TESS database for trademarks that end in “tel” and are currently “live” (meaning that they are valid registrations or in the process of being approved). I’m sure a number of those trademark owners would like to have a snazzy domain like ams.tel or sofi.tel, even if the point of the domain is for communicating.

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2 Comments

Filed under Law, Trademarks

2 responses to “A new (.tel) TLD, a new day for cybersquatters.

  1. Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for covering our launch. There is some prior protection from speculative cyber-squatters for .tel domains as the A record is locked and therefore they cannot host their own web pages on a .tel domain – it’s purely focused on delivering contact information, location records and keywords, and the associated things that can be done with those, such as using premium rate telephone numbers etc. So a cyber-squatter will have to think a little harder about how they make money from this (although it’s very possible to do this legitimately, it would be hard to do this using someone else’s legitimate brand without contravention of the Acceptable Use Policy). We also abide by the ICANN UDRP.

    I’m afraid thought that ‘identical’ does indeed mean identical, so ‘Mintel’ wouldn’t be able to get ‘Min.tel’ for example – I believe del.icio.us was created outside of a Sunrise period but that a trademark can leave out unusual characters when applying for new domains, hence the ability for them to secure delicious.com. But as you say, if they ‘do’ have a .tel at the end of them, that would certainly qualify.

    Thanks again,

    Justin
    Telnic Limited

  2. Kyle Kaiser

    There you go–straight from the registry’s mouth. Thanks Justin for the clarifications.

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