Is your ‘.au’ domain name compliant? New rules to apply from your next creation, transfer or renewal

A new set of rules governs the “.au” country code top-level domain (ccTLD). These rules introduced key changes to eligibility criteria and the ability to rent or lease domain names. In particular, registrants relying on an Australian trademark to meet the Australian presence requirement must now ensure that their “.au” domain name matches the mark exactly.

“.au” is the ccTLD for Australia.

On April 12, 2021, the administration rules for the .au domain: Licenses (New rules) entered into force. The new rules consolidated over 30 policies and guidelines that were previously in place for licensing “.au” domain names. The new rules apply to all registrants who create, transfer or renew a domain name with a “.au” ccTLD and the registrars who administer those domain names. If you had already registered a domain name before April 12, 2021, the new rules will not apply to that domain name until your current license term expires and you either renew that domain name or transfer it.

Although the new rules are broadly similar to the previous rules, there are a few important changes to note, including eligibility rules for the “.com.au” and “.net.au” namespaces and the ability to rent or rent domain names.

Eligibility rules for “.com.au” and “.net.au”

A person applying for a “.au” domain name license must have an “Australian presence”. To prove an Australian presence, a person can show that they are:

  • indeed, registered in Australia (such as an Australian citizen or permanent resident visa holder or a company registered under the Corporations Act); Where
  • the owner or applicant of an Australian Trademark.

    A person with an Australian presence must also meet all eligibility and award criteria for the relevant namespace. The additional criteria are designed to preserve special purpose namespaces (“”.com.au”, “.net.au”, “.org.au”, “.asn.au”, and “.id.au” ) for use by certain registrants. It is important to note that the new rules incorporate significant changes to the eligibility criteria for the “.com.au” and “.net.au” namespaces. These namespaces are open to registrants who are a commercial entity and request a domain name that is:

  • an exact match or an acronym of the registrant’s name;
  • an exact match to the holder’s Australian trademark; Where
  • a match or synonym of the declarant’s goods, services or premises.

The new rules have expanded and updated the definition of a “business entity” to include Commonwealth entities, bodies statutory under the laws of the Commonwealth state or territory, limited partnerships incorporated under of state or territory law, with business cooperatives and government being the crown.

Previously, if someone relied on an Australian trademark to meet the Australian presence requirement for the “.com.au” and “.net.au” namespaces, they could register a domain name that was “closely and substantially related” to this trademark. However, the new rules require registrants of domain names relying on an Australian trademark to satisfy the Australian presence requirement by choosing a domain name that exactly matches the words that are the subject of the registration of the brand. The new rules define “exact match” as meaning that the domain name is identical to the Australian trademark. The domain name must contain all of the same words in the same order as the Australian trademark (excluding punctuation, articles such as “a”, “the” or “of”, or ampersands).

The effect of this change is that foreign entities seeking to register, or have already registered, domain names in the “.com.au” or “.net.au” namespace must now have an application or an Australian trademark registration in place that exactly matches the words in that domain. Otherwise, the license for this domain name may be suspended or canceled by the registrar or administration of the ‘.au’ domain.

Rental or leasing of domain names

Under the new rules, domain name holders are not allowed to rent or lease their domain names to a third party. The main reason for this change is to ensure that the data in the WHOIS database (a database containing the contact details of each registrant) reflects who is really behind a particular domain name in the ccTLD”. to”. However, there is an exception to this rule for companies that are related legal persons.

It should be noted that the related corporation exception does not allow an Australian entity to register a “.com.au” or “.net.au” domain name in the name of its international group company that would not otherwise satisfy the Australian presence requirement. The new rules specify that if a person applies for a domain name on behalf of a related legal person, the related legal person must still meet the Australian presence requirement.

What should you do to stay on top of your domain names?

If your “.au” domain name does not comply with the New Rules, it may be suspended or cancelled. If you own a “.au” domain name registered before April 12, 2021, you can use the time before the renewal of the domain name expires to assess whether the domain name complies with the New Rules and, if if not, adopt an appropriate strategy.

To ensure that your “.au” domain name is compliant, we recommend that you do the following:

  • If you are relying on an Australian registered trademark to meet the Australian presence requirement, and your “.au” domain name does not exactly match the trademark, you should consider other means of showing the required Australian presence or consider registering a trade mark or an “.au” domain name that is an exact match.
  • Review your current portfolio of domain name and trademark registrations. If a domain name that exactly matches your Australian trademark is already registered, you can file a complaint through the .au Dispute Resolution Policy. However, you should be aware that another person may have a legitimate claim to the same domain name as you. For more information, see this article we wrote earlier on the subject.
  • Determine to whom the domain name is registered. It is not uncommon for a representative of a company to register the domain name in his name rather than that of the company. It is recommended that a domain name be registered with the company that owns the Australian trademark it relies on to meet the Australian presence requirement.
  • Check if you are renting or leasing a domain name to or from a company that is not a related legal person. If so, you need to determine if that domain name should be transferred.