The "sunrise period" for the new ".tel" domain names has now been running for over a month and will come to an end on 2 February 2009.

The "sunrise period" is the term used to describe the initial phase of the roll out of the new .tel generic Top Level Domain name (gTLD), which started on 3 December last year and runs until 2 February 2009. During this period, registration of a .tel domain name, which is identical to a national or Community trade mark, is open to the trade mark owner, a licensee or an assignee. Third parties are not entitled to register such a domain name during this period.

There a number of restrictions that apply in order for a registered trade mark to be eligible for registration as a .tel domain name during the sunrise period. The trade mark registration must have been applied for before 30 May 2008 and registered prior to the date the sunrise period domain name application is submitted.

Registration during the sunrise period is open to applications based on a registered word mark or device mark (if the word element of the device mark is the most important part or if the device mark exclusively contains a name). Applications during the sunrise period must also be for a minimum period of three years. The official fee is US$275.00, although it is likely that domain name registrars will charge an additional fee to process an application.

The sunrise period will be followed by a period called the "landrush period", which will last from 3 February 2009 until 23 March 2009, before .tel domain names reach general availability from 24 March 2009 onwards.

During the landrush period .tel domain names will be available to anyone (there will be no need to have a registered trade mark), but registration will be subject to a premium price. A registration completed during the landrush period must also be for a minimum of three years. From 24 March 2009, .tel domain names will be available to anyone subject to a minimum registration period of 1 year.

UK based, Telnic Limited, the company that is handling the administration of the .tel gTLD is confident that the new gTLD offers a great deal more than other recent additions such as .mobi and .biz. This is because of the manner in which the .tel gTLD will be managed.

The .tel gTLD will return information that is held on the Internet's Domain Name Servers (DNS). This is in contrast to other gTLDs that point users to websites on local servers around the world. The information contained on DNS can include email contacts, phone numbers and GPS coordinates.

This approach means that the response that a user receives can be tailored to suit the method by which that user accessed the domain name. Examples given include providing the users with details and location of a nearby store if they have contacted the domain name via a mobile phone.

Telnic claims this means that rather than users having to search a website for the contact details they require, the DNS will respond with all of the options for contacting the host company/organisation and can prioritise this information depending on the method of contact, making it much easier for the user to obtain the information required.

The .tel gTLD joins what seems to be an ever-increasing list of possible options. This list seems certain to expand further in the future with ICANN, the body that overseas assignment of names on the internet, having indicated its plan to allow virtually any word to be registered as a gTLD.

Arguments abound that each new gTLD is merely a money making exercise but it would appear that the .tel gTLD may also deliver genuine innovation as well as providing another domain name for trade mark holders to potentially register and maintain.

Whether those of you who hold registered marks opt to register the corresponding .tel domain name or not, it would certainly be worthwhile keeping a watchful eye on the use of the .tel gTLD and the .tel registry to monitor the actions of others with respect to your marks and to establish whether .tel domain names do indeed provide the innovation claimed by Telnic.

Many of our Scottish subscribers may also wish to monitor the progress of the following campaign before deciding whether or not to spend precious resources on a .tel domain name:

Scottish Government Mounts a "DotScot" Bid

Alex Salmond is backing an application to the internet regulator, ICANN, for Scotland to have its own gTLD. The Scottish Government has set up a working group to prepare a bid for when ICANN invites new gTLD applications in 2009, with ".scot" being the preferred choice. This will be helped by the relaxing of the rules on registering new gTLDs by ICANN in 2008.

Mr Salmond said: "The time is ripe for the worldwide family of Scots to have their own domain reflecting an online community defined by a shared commitment to Scottish identity, culture and economic promotion".

The Spanish region of Catalonia already has its own ".cat" gTLD, which has attracted more than 30,000 registrations.