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auDA to launch .au Direct domain names from 24 March 2022

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After several years of planning and consultation, Australia's domain name regulator (auDA) has announced the commencement date of the ".AU Direct" namespace for Australian domain names.

The new domain name category will become available for registrations from 24 March 2022.

What are ".au Direct" Domain Names?

All domain names are made up of multiple parts. Reading from right to left, a traditional Australian domain name must contain:

  • the .au country code top-level domain (or ccTLD)
  • a second-level domain (or 2LD), such as:
    • .com or .net (for businesses)
    • .org (for non-profit organisations)
    • .edu (for educational institutions); or
    • .asn (for associations); and
  • a third-level domain (or 3LD), which usually contains the name, abbreviation or trade mark of the domain holder or the products or services they provide.

The .au Direct namespace does away with the fixed 2LD component of the domain name. Instead, .au Direct domain names will be allowed to have a custom name at the 2LD level.

For example:

Traditional Australian Domain Name:
mydomainname.com.au
.au Direct Domain Name:
mydomainname.au

One advantage of this is that it makes the domain name shorter, and potentially more memorable to visitors. Further, the new namespace opens up more combinations and flexibility in the Australian domain name space.

Eligibility Requirements

To register a .au Direct domain name, the applicant must have an "Australian Presence" (eg the applicant must be an Australian resident or registered entity, or hold an ABN). Foreign holders of an Australian trade mark also satisfy the Australian Presence requirement, provided the chosen domain name matches the trade mark.

There are two key differences in the Eligibility Requirements for .au Direct domain names when compared to the traditional Australian domain namespaces:

  1. The chosen domain name no longer needs to be connected to the domain name applicant or their operations (For example: to register a .com.au domain name, the name must be a match, accronym or abbreviation of the holder's name, or products or services the holder offers).
  2. There is also no requirement for the applicant to be a particular type of entity - so long as the applicant satisfies the Australian Presence requirement. (For example: the .org.au namespace requires the applicant to be a non-profit organisation).

In short, an applicant can register any available domain name, so long as they satisfy the Australian Presence requirement. This means the range of possible domain names for which a given applicant is eligible is significantly greater.

The existing processes for auDRP domain name disputes and eligibility complaints will still apply under the .au Direct namespace. However, the relaxed eligibility requirements may make it harder to dispute registration of a .au Direct domain name purely on the basis that it does not match the name of the holder.

Priority Status for Existing Holders

During a 6-month "sunrise" period (from 24 March 2022 to 20 September 2022), existing traditional domain name holders will have priority to apply for exactly matching domain names in the .au Direct namespace.

For example: the holder of "mydomainname.com.au" will have priority status when applying for "mydomainname.au".

Where there is a conflict between existing traditional domain name holders, this will be assigned a priority category based on the following rules:

  • Category 1: the applicant's original domain name was created before 4 February 2018.
  • Category 2: the applicant's original domain name was created on or after 4 February 2018, but prior to 24 March 2022.

The priority is then determined as follows:

  1. Category 1 applicants have priority over Category 2 applicants.
  2. If there are two or more Category 1 applicants, then priority is allocated by agreement between them. If there is no agreement, the domain name is held indefinitely until consensus is reached or there is only one remaining Category 1 applicant.
  3. If there are two or more Category 2 applicants, then priority is allocated to the applicant with the earliest creation date.
  4. Any unclaimed domain names are released to general availability at the end of the Sunrise period.

What should current domain name holders do?

Current domain name holders should consider whether they wish to register a .au Direct domain name once they become available. If so, applications for priority status can be made when the namespace opens.

If intending to claim priority, existing domain name holders must apply before the Sunrise Period closes. Otherwise, there is a risk the desired domain name may be registered to another applicant.

Trade mark holders may also wish to apply for a .au Direct domain name matching their trade mark as a defence against domain name squatting.

Further Information

For further official information, please see the official auDA website, including the following pages:

This post is intended for general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should obtain appropriate professional advice for your circumstances or contact us for further assistance.
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