There’s a new kid on the domain name block – the ‘.au’ domain.
Since 24 March 2022, businesses can apply to register domain names in the ‘.au’ space that do not include the traditional ‘.com’, ‘.net’ or ‘.org’ extensions.
So, for example, an Australian business ACME BRANDS may now be able to register acmebrands.au as a domain name, there being no ‘com.au’ or ‘net.au’ extension.
Reasons for registering a new ‘.au’ domain name include:
- Having a shortened and simplified domain name that is easier to remember and shorter to type into a browser;
- Obtaining a new domain whose counterpart in the ‘com.au’ or ‘net.au’ spaces may be unavailable, being already registered to another;
- Strengthening your online presence and Australian digital identity; and
- Preventing third parties getting in ahead of you by registering your name as a ‘.au’ domain.
The ‘.au’ direct domain is for general purposes. Unlike in the ‘com.au’, ‘org.au’ and ‘edu.au’ domains, there is no requirement that a ‘.au’ domain be intended for use in connection with a specific purpose, such as a commercial, not-for-profit or educational purpose. There is also no obligation requiring the domain name to match the registrant’s name, service, goods, event, activity or premises. The eligibility criteria are simpler and require the applicant for registration only to have an ‘Australian presence’. Being an Australian citizen, having an ACN or an ABN, will suffice. So will being the registered owner or applicant for an Australian trade mark provided the proposed domain name is an exact match with the words the subject of the trade mark application or registration. There are some other options for qualifying for an Australian presence. Further, the proposed domain name must:
- not already have been registered to another;
- meet the syntax requirements (e.g. certain symbols are unregistrable); and
- not appear on the reserved name list as set out in the .au Licensing Rules (e.g. names and abbreviations of Australian states and territories and the name ’Australia’ are unregistrable).
Timeframes and process
There is currently a six-month priority application period, ending 20 September 2022, during which applicants can apply to register a ‘.au’ direct domain name that is a direct match with their existing ‘.au’ domain name. Applying in this period places the domain name on ‘priority hold’ for the applicants, in case there are multiple applicants for the same domain name. For example, there will be a priority hold on ‘acmebrands.au’ for the existing registrant of ‘acmebrands.com.au’, provided that the registrant applies before 20 September 2022. If there are multiple applicants eligible to apply for priority status for the same ‘.au’ domain name (e.g. ‘acmebrands.com.au’ and ‘acmebrands.net.au’ are currently held by different registrants and both apply for ‘acmebrands.au’), it becomes a contested domain name, and the applications will be allocated one of the following priority categories:
- Priority Category 1: the applicant’s existing domain name was first registered on or before 4 February 2018; and
- Priority Category 2: the applicant’s existing domain name was first registered after 4 February 2018.
The following principles apply for resolution of such contested domain names:
1. Category 1 applicants will have priority over Category 2 applicants.
2. Where there are multiple Category 1 applicants, the ‘.au’ direct domain name will be not be allocated to an applicant but will be ‘frozen’, possibly for a considerable period of time until:
(a) the applicants can agree who will be allocated the name;
(b) all but one applicant has failed to pay the annual application renewal fee; or
(c) all but one applicant no longer satisfies the eligibility criteria to hold the already registered domain name.
The remaining Category 1 applicant will then be able to obtain the domain name.
3. Where the applicants are both Category 2 applicants, the applicant with the earliest domain name registration date will be allocated the ‘.au’ direct domain name. Following the expiry of the priority period, domain names in this space will be allocated on a ’first come, first served’ basis as long as the basic eligibility criteria are met.
If you are considering registering a ‘.au’ domain or would like further advice, please contact:
This Intellectual Property and IT update was co-authored by Daniel Kovacs, Principal Lawyer, and Winston Ng, Lawyer.
Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.