On 19 November 2020, the .au Domain Administration Limited (auDA) announced that it’ll be changing the rules for owning Australian domain names. These new rules will affect businesses with existing .com.au and .net.au namespaces, and those planning to register for them.

The changes will take effect on 12 April 2021. From then on, all registered and renewed .net.au and .com.au domain names will be subject to new eligibility requirements. These rules affect both Australian and foreign businesses, so it’s important to take note of the changes. 

Pinnacle TMS, a trusted trademark specialist in Australia, explains what the new licensing rules mean for businesses, their domain names and registered trademarks.

Before we discuss the details of the new rules, let’s take a look at the auDA’s current licensing standards and eligibility requirements.

Current Eligibility Requirements 

Under the existing rules, businesses can own a .com.au or .net.au domain name if they meet the Australian Presence requirement. Australian-owned businesses easily pass this test, but foreign business entities often find other ways to qualify.

Many foreign businesses satisfy the Australian Presence requirement by owning an Australian trademark. They can choose a domain name that’s ‘close and substantially connected’ to their trademark listed on IP Australia’s Trade Mark database

‘Close and substantially connected’ means that your domain name can be an acronym or abbreviation of your registered trademark. For example, if your trademark is ‘Old-Fashioned Lemonade’, you can use any of these domain names:

  • oldfashionedlemonade.com.au
  • ofl.net.au
  • oldlemonade.com.au
  • oldfashioned.net.au

The new licensing rules won’t accept the last three domain names anymore. This means foreign business entities will have to find another way to meet the Australian Presence requirement. 

New Eligibility Requirements 

Under the new rules, the domain name of a foreign business with no physical Australian presence must exactly match their registered trademark. The auDA will no longer recognise acronyms and abbreviations as eligible Australian domain names.

Your domain name must be identical and in the same order as the words that appear on your Australian trademark registration. You can omit punctuation marks and articles, such as ‘&’, ‘and’, ‘the’ and ‘of’, among others.

For example, if your registered trademark is ‘Milk & Honey’, your exact match domain name would be milkhoney.com.au.

Impact and Solutions

If your existing domain name isn’t compliant with the new licensing rules, you need to have it corrected before its renewal period. You won’t be able to renew it if it doesn’t meet the new eligibility requirements. The auDA will cancel or suspend your domain if you fail to comply before your renewal date. You won’t be able to renew or transfer it once it’s cancelled.

You have several solutions for a non-compliant domain name. The easiest would be to apply for a new trademark to match your existing domain. This should be the best solution, unless such Australian trademark already exists. In that case, you can register as a local Australian business.

Foreign businesses can apply for an Australian business number (ABN) as long as you meet the requirements. Your ABN will prove your Australian presence, so you won’t need a trademark to qualify for a .au domain name.  

If you still don’t qualify for an ABN, you can change the domain name into a non-Australian one. 

Keep in mind that the new rules will come into effect on 12 April 2021, so you have a short window to make the necessary solutions.

Secure Your Trademarks with Pinnacle TMS

If you need assistance with registering a new trademark, Pinnacle TMS is here to expedite and simplify the registration process for you, through our proven two-step method.

For enquiries about our services, call us at +61 2 9520 4366 or fill out our online form.