Working smarter

New rules for .au
domain names

There are new rules in place which may impact overseas-based companies or businesses which rely on an Australian trade mark to meet the Australian presence test for a com.au or net.au domain.  

If you’re using an Australian trade mark to meet the Australian presence requirement, you will need to choose a name that is an exact match of your trade mark words. 

What is an exact match?

An exact match is defined as being:

“...identical to all the words in the order in which they appear in the Australian Trade Mark, excluding: 

  • Domain Name System (DNS) identifiers e.g. com.au
  • punctuation marks e.g. an exclamation point (!) or an apostrophe (‘) 
  • articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘of’ 
  • ampersands (&).”

Put into practice

Let’s say your trade mark is The Big Helmet Bike Shop, you can choose from the following domain names:

thebighelmetbikeshop.com.au or thebighelmetbikeshop.net.au

Note ‘the’ is an article and may be excluded:

bighelmetbikeshop.com.au or bighelmetbikeshop.net.au

How is this different?

Previously you could choose a name that was ‘closely and substantially connected’ to your trade mark. Here are examples of what is no longer permitted under the new rules:   

tbhbs.com.au or tbhbs.net.au

thebighelmet.com.au or thebighelmet.net.au

bighelmet.com.au or bighelmet.net.au

What are the timings?

The new rules came into effect on 12 April 2021. All .au domain names registered or renewed on or after this date are subject to the new licensing rules. If you renewed your domain name licence before 12 April 2021, the previous rules will apply until your current licence expires.

Why the change?

The main reason for the change is to help create trust and confidence in the .au domain names. With this change, the relationship between the domain name and the foreign holder of an Australian trade mark will be made clearer.

Important to note

Local businesses typically use an Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN) to meet the Australian presence test and are unlikely to impacted by this change.

Remember this change only applies if you rely on an Australian trade mark, or apply to meet the Australian presence requirement for a com.au or net.au domain name and the .au domain name is not an exact match to your trade mark. 

Next steps if the change applies to you

Contact your registrar to update the information relating to how you meet the Australian presence requirement for your domain name licence. Depending on your circumstances, here are some options:

  • changing the legal entity the domain name licence is registered to, for example, transferring the name to an Australian company such as an Australian subsidiary (this requires a registrant transfer via your registrar)
  • registering as a foreign corporation trading in Australia and being allocated an Australian Registered Business Number (ARBN) 
  • applying for an additional Australian trade mark that enables you to meet the exact match requirement for your domain name. 

Take time to assess which approach is best suited to your situation.

For more details read the new licensing rules or refer to the full Domain Administration Rules.

Jenny Dikranian

Content Writer, My Business

Jenny Dikranian is a content writer passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation in inspiring business success.

How can we help?

My Business has a range of resources for your business. Get support managing your employees, reducing your business costs, accessing business funding, and marketing your business. 

Already a member? Get started

Found this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the best business tips and articles straight to your inbox.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter. You're one step closer to receiving more insightful information to help better your business.

We take your privacy seriously and by subscribing to our newsletter you agree to the terms of our Privacy Policy available below.