What you need to know
Following on from on our announcement of the planned rule changes allowing registration of domain names with just the country code <.au>, registrations will now open on 24 March 2022. From that date, you will be able to apply to register a domain name in the <.au> space (without the additional <com>, <net> and <org> and other third level descriptors), such as (your brand).au. Given the Australian domain name space has been a restricted space, we’ve summarised the main criteria a potential or existing registrant will need to satisfy in order to secure their new <.au> domain name below.
auDA updated its licensing rules on 17 August 2021 (see here) to set out the new eligibility criteria to register a domain name in this new space as well as recognising the priority of existing registrants of other .au domain names, such as .com.au or .org.au.
A person (or company) applying for registration of a name directly in the <.au> space must have an ‘Australian presence’. This ‘Australian presence’ must be maintained for the entire period that the domain name is registered. The concept of an ‘Australian presence’ is new and can be satisfied in a number of ways. There are 17 different eligibility categories and registrants need only satisfy one.
The ‘Australian presence’ eligibility categories include being an Australian citizen, a company registered under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), or holding a pending or registered Australian trade mark that is an ‘exact match’ of the name you are applying to register in this space. If you are relying on a trade mark to satisfy the connection to Australia requirement, the domain name must be an exact match of the words in the trade mark (excluding punctuation and articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘of’ and the domain name identifier) and in the same order. For foreign traders wanting to register their names directly into the <.au> space, holding a registered or pending Australian trade mark for the identical words is likely to be the easiest way to satisfy the ‘Australian presence’ criteria.
When the <.au> space launches on 24 March 2022, existing registrants of domain names in other <.au> namespaces (such as .com.au or .org.au) will be able to apply on a priority basis to register the same domain name in <.au> depending on when they first registered their existing Australian domain name. Existing Australian domain names will be reserved for registration in the <.au> space on a ‘Priority Hold’ basis until 20 September 2022.
The priority process (see here) has been split into two categories and priority depends on when you first registered your current Australian domain name. The highest priority is Category 1 which covers existing Australian domain names registered on or before 4 February 2018. The next level down, Category 2 recognises the priority of existing Australian domain names registered between 4 February 2018 and before 24 March 2022.
There is also a process to deal with conflicting applications to register the same domain name. Category 1 applicants have priority over those in Category 2. However, if the applicants for a competing name are both in Category 1, they will need to negotiate and resolve the conflict themselves. If the contest is between Category 2 applicants, the applicant with the earliest domain name creation date will secure the <.au> domain name.
This new <.au> domain space will then open up for other registrations (general availability) on a “first come first served basis” once the priority process closes on 20 September 2022.
When do I need to register?
If you are an Australian citizen or business and are interested in a shorter domain name, you should take a look at the licensing rules to check you fall into one of the ‘Australian presence’ eligibility categories.
If you want to register a shorter Australian domain name and you don’t already have an existing Australian domain name, we recommend you register one before the 24 March 2022 launch date. If you already have an Australian domain name, we recommend registering in <.au> prior to 20 September 2022. After that date, you will be trying to register your name against all other eligible registrants including cybersquatters.
Authors: Lisa Lennon + Anoushka Tait