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New Australian Domain Name Licensing Rules

Posted by Melissa McGrath on 15 Jul 2021

The .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) has implemented New Licensing Rules for the registration of Australian Domain Names, which applies to all registrants of.com.au, net.au and .org.au domain names. The New Rules are applicable to all Australian domain names registered, transferred or renewed after 12 April 2021.

It is of vital importance that if your Australian Domain Name does not meet the eligibility requirements under the new rules, your domain name may be suspended or cancelled so this needs your urgent attention!

Changes affecting .com.au and .net.au Domain Names

The main changes affecting .com.au and .net.au domain names include:

  • Use of trade marks to meet the Australian ‘presence’ test
  • Expanded definition of a corporate entity, and
  • Related bodies corporate rule

Using a Trade Mark to meet the Australian ‘Presence’ Test

If you or your business holds an Australian Trade Mark which appears on IP Australia’s Trade Mark Database, you may meet the Australian Presence requirement. The domain name in use must be an exact match to the trade mark recorded on the data base. An exact match means that the domain name must include all the words in order in which they appear in the Australian Trade Mark, excluding:

  • DNS identifiers such as com.au;
  • Punctuation marks;
  • Articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and’ or ‘of’; and,
  • Ampersands.

Subsequently, you cannot register domain names which are abbreviations or acronyms of your trade mark. For Example, under the auDA rules, if your trade mark is “City Central Cafe” you could have:

  • Citycentralcafe.com.au

However, you cannot have:

  • CCC.com.au
  • Citycentral.com.au, or,
  • Centralcafe.net.au

Expanded definition of a ‘Corporate Entity’

Previously, persons eligible to register domain names only included an Australian registered company, partnership or sole trader, a person trading under a registered business name in Australia, a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia and an owner or applicant for an Australian Trade Mark.

The new rule expands the list of eligible persons, by introducing the commercial entity definition which captures further entities to register domain names including Commonwealth entities, statutory bodies under commonwealth state or territory legislation, incorporated limited partnerships under State or Territory legislation, trading co-operatives and the government being the Crown.

Related Bodies Corporate Rule

Under the new rules, companies may be able to apply for and hold .au domain name licenses on behalf of another company in their corporate group provided that an Australian presence requirement is met.

Changes affecting .org.au Domain Names

The new licensing requirements will have a significant impact on .org.au registrants.

Firstly, the rules have inserted a new definition of ‘Not for Profit entity’ which effectively excludes unincorporated associations (for example sporting or special interest clubs) from  holding domain names if they are not registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC). Further, organisations which are eligible to hold org.au domain names under the Rule will have a wider range of domain names which they can register. For example, these organisations can register domain names which are matches or synonyms of the name of a service, program, event or activity the organisation provides at the time of the domain name application.

Third Party Use, Licensing and Ownership

The new rules expressly prohibit renting, leasing or sub-leasing of domain names, which was previously allowed under the former rules. The intention behind this prohibition is to enable greater transparency for website users to be sure that the registrant of the domain name is in fact the operator of the website. Entities that have previously allowed third-party use of their domain name should consider alternatives to licensing their domain names.

How does this impact you?

If you are a Registrant of a .au domain name, it is important that you comply with the new licensing rules and understand how they could potentially affect you/your business. Failure to comply with new rules may result in suspension or cancellation of the domain.

If you have any questions about the new licensing rules, please do not hesitate to contact a member of Coleman Greig’s Intellectual Property Team, who would be more than happy to assist you today.

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