The governing body of .au domain names, the .au Domain Administration (auDA), recently announced that .au direct names will launch in Australia on 24 March 2022. This development follows similar moves for .uk and .nz domain names, and has been a long time coming – we reported previously that the planned 2019 launch of .au domain names had been delayed to early 2020, but a firm launch date has now been set for March 2022.
From the launch date, users will be able to register a domain name directly followed by .au, such as domainname.au. Second level .au names have not previously been available in Australia, where options have been limited to third level .au names, such as domainname.com.au and domainname.net.au.
.au direct registrations will be available for general use by any person or organisation, provided they have an Australian presence.
From the launch date, a person or organisation will be able to register any .au direct domain name, provided it:
- is available for registration (that is, it is not already registered to someone else);
- satisfies auDA’s syntax requirements; and
- is not reserved (either under the priority scheme discussed below, or auDA’s general rules restricting use of domain names containing certain terms, like ‘olympics’).
All .au direct domain names that correspond to an existing third level .au domain name will be reserved for the first six months after the launch date. During this time, holders of existing third level .au domain names will need to apply for priority status in respect of the corresponding second level name. For example, as the holder of the hwlebsworth.com.au domain name, our firm will have priority to apply to register hwlebsworth.au. At the end of the period, if no priority applications have been lodged, the .au direct name will become available to the public.
There may be more than one party eligible to register a single .au direct domain name. For instance, the holder of domainname.com.au and the holder of domainname.net.au would both be eligible to register domainname.au. In order to address this, auDA has developed a priority system. Under this system:
- first priority is given to the registrant of domain names created before 4 February 2018 (when auDA first announced its intention to offer second level .au domain names, and provide priority to existing holders);
- second priority is given to the registrant of domain names created after 4 February 2018;
- an applicant with first priority will prevail over any applicants with second priority;
- where there are multiple applicants with second priority, the domain name will be allocated to the applicant with the earliest registered corresponding third level domain name; and
- where there are multiple applicants with first priority, the applicants will be directed to negotiate with each other, and the domain name will be allocated on agreement between the parties.
Should the completing first priority applicants fail to reach an agreement as to which should be allocated the domain name, then it will not be granted to any of them. The parties to such a dispute will need to continue to renew their applications for the domain name each year, and the domain name will remain reserved indefinitely until such time as only one applicant remains.
In the event that only one application is lodged, the .au direct domain name will be allocated to the applicant if they are the only eligible party in respect of the domain name. If there are multiple eligible parties but only one files an application, whether or not the domain name is allocated immediately or at the end of the six month priority allocation period will depend on the priority category of the applicant as opposed to that of the other eligible parties.
auDA has stated that an online tool will be made available to enable parties to determine their priority category in respect of a second level domain name that corresponds to an existing third level domain name.
If you or your organisation is interested in registering a .au direct domain name based on an existing third level domain name, you should note that:
- you will be able to apply for priority status in March 2022, on a date yet to be announced;
- there will be a fee payable upon application;
- your eligibility to hold your existing third level domain name will be checked when you apply; and
- you will need to apply, even if there are no other eligible parties.
HWL Ebsworth’s Intellectual Property team has extensive experience handling domain name portfolios. If you would like to learn more about your eligibility or priority category for .au direct domain names, please contact us for further information on how we can assist you.
This article was written by Luke Dale, Partner, Daniel Kiley, Special Counsel and Kelly Williamson, Solicitor.