A new set of rules for the .au domain will come into effect on 12 April 2021.
The new rules streamline our existing policies and guidelines and make some key changes to maintain and build trust and confidence in .au.
One change relates to how registrants meet the Australian presence test for a com.au and net.au licence.
Under the new rules, if a foreign-based registrant (such as a foreign company selling products online to people in Australia using a com.au or net.au domain) is using an Australian trademark to meet the Australian presence test, the com.au or net.au domain name needs to be an exact match of that registrant’s trade mark.
This helps strengthen trust in com.au and net.au domains by making the relationship between the domain name and the foreign holder of an Australian trademark clearer.
In this post we’ll look at what the change means and what you can do if you’re affected by it.
The Australian presence test
To be eligible for any .au domain name, there is a long-standing rule that you must have a connection to Australia – referred to in the new licensing rules as an ‘Australian presence’.
In the new licensing rules the definition of an Australian presence contains an exhaustive list of the legal arrangements and natural persons that are considered to have an Australian presence. The list includes being an owner of, or applicant for, an Australian trade mark.
Owning an Australian trade mark or having an application for one is a common way that foreign legal entities can meet the Australian presence test to register com.au or net.au domain names.
Local businesses are much more likely to use their ABN or ACN to meet the Australian presence test.
Changes to the allocation rules for com.au and net.au
Allocation rules define what domain name a registrant can hold and how it needs to relate to them or their organisation.
Under the new rules if your Australian trade mark is the only way you meet the Australian presence test, your domain name must be an exact match to the words of that trade mark.
An exact match is defined as:
“..all the words in the order in which they appear in the Australian Trade Mark, excluding:
- Domain Name System (DNS) identifiers such as com.au;
- punctuation marks such as an exclamation point or an apostrophe;
- articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and ’or ‘of’; and
This is a change from the old rules where a foreign company could choose a com.au or net.au name ‘closely and substantially connected’ to the words of the Australian trade mark.
As an example, say you own the trademark for “The Little Red Wagon Bookshop”. You want to register a com.au or net.au domain name and decide to use your trade mark to demonstrate your Australian presence.
Under the new rules you can licence:
thelittleredwagonbookshop.com.au OR littleredwagonbookshop.net.au,
lrwb.com.au or littlered.net.au.
Who does this change apply to?
This change only applies to registrants who:
- rely on an Australian trade mark, or application for one, to meet the Australian presence requirement for a com.au or net.au domain name; and
- their com.au/net.au domain name does not meet the definition of an exact match.
Registrants located in Australia who meet the Australian presence test another way are not impacted by this change.
What to do if this change applies to you
If this change applies to you, you will need to update the information relating to how you meet the Australian presence requirement for your domain name licence via your registrar.
Depending on your circumstances, ways you can do this might include:
- Changing the entity the domain name licence is registered to, for example, transferring the name to an Australian company such as a Australian subsidiary (this requires a registrant transfer via your registrar); or
- Registering as a foreign corporation trading in Australia and being allocated an Australian Registered Business Number (ARBN);
- applying for additional Australian trade marks that enable you to meet the exact match requirement for your domain name.
You will need to assess which approach best suits your needs as each situation is different.
When do these changes come into effect?
These new rules commence on 12 April 2021 10:00AM AEST (0:00 UTC). However, the ‘old’ rules apply until the end of your current licence period.
All names created, transferred, or renewing on or after 12 April 2021 will be subject to the new rules. If you decide to transfer the affected domain name licence after April 12, that new entity must be eligible to hold the name.
Keep in mind, that while you can renew a .au domain name licence up to 90 days before the licence expiry date, the new licence period only begins once the current licence period ends.
You can read more about our new licensing rules on our website and here the .au blog.