Registration of .au domain names – is your brand protected?

From 24 March 2022, any persons with a verified connection to Australia will be able to apply for a domain name ending in .au, also known as a direct name or second level name (Direct Name).  Any business can apply for a Direct Name as long as they meet the eligibility criteria under the .au Licensing Rules (Licensing Rules).

Why are Direct Names being introduced?

The .au Direct Name innovation is being introduced as a result of public consultation conducted in Australia from 2015, during which the majority of more than 97,000 people who participated were in favour of the introduction of simple, memorable, and distinctly local domain names.  These domains will provide the opportunity for users to register online names that are easier to remember, are shorter and offer a wider choice of available domain names in Australia.[1]

The new licensing rules for .au domain names

Businesses that can demonstrate a connection to Australia will be able to purchase Direct Names from 24 March 2022.  Previously, registration of a “” domain name required businesses to have an Australian Business Number (ABN) and registration of “” addresses were available for charities or not-for-profit organisations only.  The new licensing rule changes the requirements for registration of Direct Names, meaning any business with a verified connection to Australia is able to get a shorter and simpler Australian domain name.[2]  A verified connection to Australia is defined in the Licensing Rules as a business with an Australian presence, for example:

  • a company registered in Australia under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth);
  • a Registrable Body which has an Australian Registered Body Number (ARBN); or
  • an Australian Incorporated Association, an entity issued with an ABN, a Registered Organisation or an Indigenous Corporation.

For the full list of connections qualifying as Australian presence, please refer to the Licensing Rules.

If a business holds a domain name containing the .au namespace in any format, an application for Priority Status is available for registration of its exact match for six (6) months after launch commencing on 24 March 2022 (Priority Allocation period).[3]  If you are unsure whether your business’ current domain name is eligible for Priority Status, you may check this in the auDA Priority Status Tool.[4]  Prior to launch, all Direct Names that correspond with existing domain names in the .au registry will automatically be placed on hold until the end of the Priority Allocation period on 20 September 2022.

What is Priority Status?

A registrant of existing domain names in Australia can apply for priority to register their Direct Name.  Usually, the registrant will be allocated the Direct Name shortly after applying for it.

However, there may be circumstances where there will be more than one (1) person applying for the same Direct Name – different registrants holding the same name in different namespaces (Contested Name).  For example, Party A is the registrant of “” while Party B is the registrant of “”: both parties will be eligible to apply for “”, and the Direct Name will be allocated pursuant to priority categories determined by the existing domain name license creation date and the priority cut-off date of 4 February 2018.  The priority category is based on the creation date of the domain name submitted for application:

  • Priority Category 1: Names created on or before the cut-off date of 4 February 2018
  • Priority Category 2: Names created after the cut-off date of 4 February 2018

Category 1 applicants will have priority over Category 2 applicants.  If there are multiple Category 1 applicants, the Direct Name will be allocated on agreement/negotiation between Category 1 applicants.  Negotiation will occur directly between the applicants and applicants may contact each other through the publicly available registrant contact information found in WHOIS.  If an agreement is reached, the agreed applicant(s) will withdraw their applications and the Direct Name will be allocated to the registrant with the only active Priority Status application remaining for an initial one-year license term.  If no agreement is reached, the Direct Name remains on hold until there is only one (1) active application remaining.  Applications will need to be renewed on a yearly basis.

If there are only Category 2 applicants, the Direct Name will be allocated to the applicant whose domain was created earlier.

If no applications are received by the end of the Priority Allocation period, then the Direct Name will become available to the public on a first-come-first-serve basis.

How can businesses register for a Direct Name?

An application for Priority Status requires the business to be eligible to hold the existing domain name licenses under the .au Licensing Rules.

From 24 March 2022 to 20 September 2022, businesses can apply for Priority Status via their domain registrar, or any other accredited registrar that offers Direct Names.  The fee for lodging an application will very between registrars.

Businesses will be required to have a priority token, which can be retrieved via auDA’s website.

Businesses will not be able to update the registrant information associated with its existing domain name while the application for the Direct Name is active.  All information lodged must be up to date.

What are closed namespaces?

Closed .au namespaces are those which are only available to entities within a defined sector.  This includes:

  • au for educational institutions registered at federal or state level;
  • au for Commonwealth, state, territory, and local government bodies; and
  • au for the sole use of the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Takeaways on .au domain names

If you have an existing domain name for your business, you may consider applying to register a Direct Name for a shorter, more memorable domain name.  However, as long as you keep your registration up to date your existing domain name will continue to operate even if you choose not to apply.

Links and further references

Related articles

Domain name disputes – the case of

Domain Name Disputes


Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)

Further information on changes to the domain name system

If you need advice on .au domain name registration or a domain name dispute, contact us for a confidential and obligation free discussion:

Malcolm BurrowsMalcolm Burrows B.Bus.,MBA.,LL.B.,LL.M.,MQLS.
Legal Practice Director
Telephone: (07) 3221 0013 (Preferred)
Mobile: 0419 726 535




This article contains general commentary only.  You should not rely on the commentary as legal advice.  Specific legal advice should be obtained to ascertain how the law applies to your particular circumstances.





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