Telnic releases all numeric '.tel' domain names of eight digits and above

International

Telnic Limited, the UK-based registry of the ‘.tel’ generic top-level domain (gTLD), has released all numeric ‘.tel’ domain names of eight digits and above, for example ‘00442074676450.tel’ or ‘0207-467-6450.tel’. Such domain names became available on October 15 2013 on a first-come, first-served basis.  

The ‘.tel’ extension was initially launched in December 2008, and this was then followed in June 2011 with the launch of short ‘.tel’ domain names, namely those containing only two characters (such as ‘ab.tel’ or ‘a2.tel’) or numeric-only strings of between two and seven digits, with or without hyphens (such as ‘1234.tel’ or ‘123-456.tel’).

However, one digit domain names will continue to be unavailable, as well as numeric domains with hyphens in positions three and four, for example ‘12--3.tel’.

Essentially ‘.tel’ is intended as a means of grouping together all of a company's or an individual's contact information in one place under a ‘.tel’ domain name. The contact information displayed when accessing a ‘.tel’ domain name can be anything from simple telephone numbers and addresses to more detailed information such as geographical coordinates and links. The domain name holder decides who has access to what information.

‘.tel’ domain names differ substantially from other domain names in terms of their technical set up. All contact information to be displayed is actually held in the domain name server where the domain name is hosted, rather than being stored in webservers. ‘.tel’ registrants are therefore able to have an online presence without the need for a website.  

The initial expansion to allow numeric-only domain names in 2011 meant that Telnic had to apply to ICANN to change the provisions of its Registry Agreement. ICANN's agreement to the change provoked criticism in some quarters, as ICANN had originally authorised the gTLD on the basis that numeric domain names would not be allowed (it had been argued at the time that this would cause confusion with telephone numbers).

One of the main ways that Telnic has marketed the ‘.tel’ extension is by emphasising that very simple domain names, such as ‘emma.tel’ or ‘ben.tel’, mean that internet users no longer need to remember a myriad of contact details, as everything will be accessible just by typing in the domain name, and thus registrants of ‘.tel’ domain names will be more easily contactable. Allowing the registration of actual telephone numbers as ‘.tel’ domain names thus runs somewhat contrary to this, and it will be interesting to see if there are eventually many numeric registrations of eight digits or more under ‘.tel’.

However, at the very least, it is advisable for companies to register their telephone numbers under ‘.tel’ to prevent any third parties from acquiring them, given that there is no sunrise procedure planned for holders of prior rights (which presumably would have needed to encompass holders of particular telephone numbers, as opposed to trademark holders, given the numeric nature of the domain names that will become available). This is particularly the case in that, although disputes under ‘.tel’ domain names are subject to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), in the event that a numeric domain name such as a telephone number is squatted by a malicious third party, it would not be immediately apparent whether or not the UDRP would be the appropriate forum to assist. This is because the UDRP only deals with domain names that are identical, or confusingly similar, to registered or unregistered trademarks, which means that complainants would need to argue that their telephone number fell into this category. Evidently, this may be rather a tall order.

David Taylor and Sean Kelly, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

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