Sladen Legal
The .Au Domain Name Is Coming – Are You Ready?

We Aussies like to shorten everything. So, it comes as no surprise that the Australian Domain Administration (auDA) has announced plans to make available a shortened Australian country domain by releasing a brand new second-level domain (2LD) for eligible Australian businesses – the highly anticipated <.au> namespace.

Reports are in that the new 2LD <.au> namespace will be available midway through 2021 – but there are steps you can take to prepare your business now.

What exactly is a domain? 

Your domain is your address on the Internet, and it’s valuable. When it comes to protecting your brand identity and intellectual property, domain registrations are an essential tool in securing an exclusive online presence in the market and stopping unauthorised third parties from capitalising on your reputation.

What changes have been proposed?

auDA has proposed to open the <.au> namespace. This will allow Australian users of the Internet to register a name directly before the dot in <.au>. For example, www.sladen.com.au could apply for www.sladen.au and www.domain.net.au could apply for www.domain.au. 

At first glance, this is a great idea. A shorter domain is snappy, simple and easier to remember. This could mean increased brand exposure. However, more businesses will have opportunity to register a domain in the .au namespace than in the existing <.com.au> space. 

As well as opening the new namespace, auDA has proposed to reduce[i] the domain name eligibility requirements for new registrants. At present, a person applying for a <.com.au> namespace must have an existing commercial connection with the domain (for example, a matching business name registration or matching Australian Trade Mark).  However, for the <.au> namespace, there is no eligibility and domain name allocation criteria other than having an Australian presence. This means that any individual residing locally in Australia can apply for a <.au>  domain, providing it is not already taken or a prohibited name[ii]. 

On the one hand, this is a good thing. According to auDA, half of small businesses in Australia do not have an online presence. That is because there are many small businesses and individuals who cannot get or do not qualify for a <.com.au> or <.net.au> name.  On the other hand, this new accessibility for <.au> names creates difficulties for existing domain name owners to secure this additional domain in their family of domain names and provides an opportunity for cyber squatters to obtain domains related to third party businesses and brands.  Australian brand owners will be forced to take measures to protect their brand online.

The good news is that if you have an existing <.com.au>, <.net.au> or <.org.au> domain, you can have first dibs on the <.au> extension when it becomes available. 

Who is eligible to receive a <.au> domain? 

While auDa has not confirmed the commencement or cut-off dates for the release, or confirmed the exact process for registration, it has set the ground rules for participation. 

This means that every Australian business should be taking steps now to secure their place at the head of the queue. 

If you already have a <.au> 3LD extension registered (for example, <.com.au>, <.net.au>, <.org.au>, <.id.au> or <.vic.au>) then auDA will reserve your new <.au> domain name for you to claim, provided that your existing registered domain complies with its eligibility requirements. 

Businesses will need to make an application for priority via its existing Registrar, by using that Registrar’s form and by providing evidence that it satisfies requirements for the <.au> namespace. While the length and complexity of that form is yet to be announced, Registrars will not process applications where the applicant no longer satisfies the eligibility or allocation criteria to hold or register the qualifying and proposed domain name.

What happens if more than one business wants the same <.au> domain? 

If more than one licence holder wants to register the same name in the <.au> namespace, auDA has proposed Implementation Rules to navigate the interests of competing businesses.  The process takes into account the priority of domain name creation dates (e.g. filing dates) for determining who will be able to register that name. This means that the earlier a domain name is registered, the better chance a business has in obtaining the <.au> name.

What can my business do to get ready?

Given Registrars will look at eligibility requirements for the qualifying domain name registration, it is essential that you control your domain name registrations.  This means the owner contact information with your Registrar must be up-to-date and current. If your domain name registration expires or is unable to be recovered prior to the release date, then your <.au> domain may become vulnerable to registration by an unrelated third party. 

You also need to make sure your domain name is registered in the correct entity name and you have easy and efficient access to the registrant login details within your organisation. While auDA is yet to announce the application timeframe or a firm process for claiming priority, the draft Implementation Rules confirm that after making an application, you will not have the opportunity to update or change this information or transfer the licence to another person. 

If an IT consultant or an employee registered your domain on your behalf, you should ensure that the ownership details are changed to your company and do not remain in the consultant or employee’s personal capacity. 

An Action Checklist

Here is a checklist of next actions to get your business ready:

  • make sure you have an existing 3LD extension domain name registered including <.com.au>, <.net.au> or <.org.au>, and if not, file any new applications as soon as possible to qualify for the earliest possible priority date;
  • ensure all existing domain name registration contact details are up to date and in the name of the correct owner entity;
  • continue to comply with the eligibility and allocation rules for your qualifying domain name registrations; and
  • monitor the release date for the new <.au> namespace, to file a priority application for your <.au> domain with your Registrar.

Sladen Legal can help ensure your brand is protected, along with that all-important internet address. 

At Sladen Legal, we are at our happiest working with members of the creative industries to manage the licensing of copyright or the sale or transfer of artistic works. We can also develop a suite of resources that protect your business against claims of copyright infringement. For more information, please contact Michelle Dowdle, Head of Intellectual Property at Sladen Legal on (03) 9611 0114, 0408 674 256  or send her an email at [email protected]u, @SladenIP

Or visit the AGDA IP Hotline Portal for a free consultation, we would love to hear from you!


For the published article, click here.

[i] For a complete overview of eligibility criteria for different 3LD domain variations, applicants should refer to paragraphs 2.4.3 to 2.4.11 of the auDA Licensing Rules. These rules are available at: <www.auda.org.au/policies/index-of-published-policies/2019/auda-licensing-rules/>

[ii] Under the auDA Reserved List Policy, a number of words, abbreviations and acronyms cannot be used in an Australian domain name. Some examples include ‘ANZAC’, ‘Medicare’ and ‘Olympics.’ The full list is available at: <www.auda.org.au/policies/index-of-published-policies/2014/2014-06/>