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If you have an Australian domain name – you need to be planning for what’s coming in March 2022

Corporate and M&A, Intellectual Property
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New domain names are becoming available in Australia in addition to the existing “.com.au”, “.net.au” and “.org.au” namespaces from 24 March 2022.

.au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), Australia’s entity responsible for developing and administering the rules for .au domain names, will be releasing new, “.au” direct namespaces (eg. example.au) to align Australia with other countries that already have the shorter domain names such as New Zealand (.nz), the United Kingdom (.uk) and the United States (.us).

The shorter domain names, also known as “second level names” or “direct registration”, will be for general use. This means that any person or organisation can register them, provided they meet the eligibility criteria in the auDA licensing rules. To be eligible for a “.au” direct name the registrant must have an Australian presence, which includes being a citizen or permanent resident, or being an organisation registered in Australia.

The Priority Application Process

Importantly, existing registrants with corresponding “.com.au”, ".org.au" or “.net.au” domain names will be given the priority to apply for the corresponding “.au” namespace from 24 March 2022 for a period of 6 months (Priority Allocation Period) during which time you will be able to obtain priority status by applying through an accredited registrar.

If there are other registrants eligible to apply for priority status for the same ".au" direct name, then the allocation will be determined according to the priority category of eligible applicants:

  • If there are a Category 1 applicant (being applicants whose domain name was registered before 4 February 2018) and a Category 2 applicant (being applicants whose domain name was registered after 4 February 2018), Category 1 will have priority over Category 2.
  • If there are multiple Category 1 applicants, applicants must agree on allocation.
  • If only Category 2 applicants apply, the name will be allocated to the applicant with the earliest domain creation date.

It is important to note that existing domain names will continue to operate so long as registration is kept up to date. However, if no one applies for priority status during the Priority Allocation Period, the .au direct name can be registered through an accredited registrar on a first-come-first served basis when the Priority Allocation Period ends. 

Key takeaways

To continue to protect your IP and online presence, it is important to consider the domain names that your entity requires.

If you hold a domain name in the wider .au namespace (such as “.org.au”, “.com.au” or “.net.au”) you should consider whether you would like to obtain direct registration over the shorter .au domain name. If so, you should apply for priority status within the 6-month period from 24 March 2022.

It is also worth considering where you may sit in the priority queue and whether your entity should register other domain names in the wider .au namespace before the release date to ensure that there are no competing applicants for the shorter .au domain name. This could help prevent another entity from obtaining direct registration of the .au direct name during the Priority Allocation Period.

Rules for the direct registration are available here.

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