• A .au domain requires a registered trademark, company or registered business name corresponding to the domain name.
  • There are no proprietary interests in a domain name. It is a licence granted by the domain registrar for the registrant to use the domain name for a limited time, with the right to renew. In Australia, the licence for the domain name is 2 years.
  • .au Domain Administration (auDA) is the peak body for the .au domain in Australia.

Legalities of Domain Names in Australia

Domain names are registered on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to any eligibility criteria. For example, there is a strict policy that ensures that a .org.au domain name can only be registered by Australian non-commercial organisations.

Eligibility for Registrants

For Australian domain names that end in .au (such as .com.au, .edu.au, .net.au etc.), there are eligibility requirements:

  • trading under a business name registered on the national business register;
  • an Australian registered company;
  • an Australian partnership;
  • the owner or applicant for an Australian Registered Trade Mark;
  • an incorporated Association or an Australian Statutory body registered in any Australian State or Territory; or
  • a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia.

auDA – .au Domain Administration

The auDA is the authority for .au domains in Australia. You cannot register a domain through auDA. Rather, you can register through a list of accredited registrars. Different registration processes apply for .gov.au and .edu.au. auDA has the right to revoke a domain name licence if it does not meet the eligibility criteria.

Key Considerations

  • A domain name licence is not a defence against your infringing any third party rights, for example someone with a similar domain name to you.
  • Top-level domains such as .com or .net can be registered for longer periods than .au domains such as .com.au and .org.au. The auDA has strict compliance regulations controlling the registration of Australian domains.
  • There is no restriction on the number of domain names that may be licensed by a registrant.

Domain Name Disputes

There are two common methods of resolving domain name disputes:
commencing legal proceedings for trade mark infringement; or
lodging a complaint under the relevant Domain Name Policy.

Trade Mark Infringement

The use of a trade mark in a domain name may infringe a registered trade mark or breach a trade mark owner’s common law rights.

Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy

The Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) requires registrars to resolve domain name disputes by agreement, court action, or arbitration before a registrar will cancel, suspend, or transfer a domain name.

To invoke the policy, a trade mark owner should either:

  • (a) file a complaint in a court of proper jurisdiction against the domain-name holder (or where appropriate an in-rem action concerning the domain name) or
  • (b) in cases of abusive registration submit a complaint to an approved dispute-resolution service provider

Dispute Resolution for .au domains

The .au Dispute Resolution Policy is modelled on the UDRP. The auDRP gives protection against domain names that are registered legitimately but then subsequently used in bad faith. Also, the auDRP uses the term ‘name’ instead of ‘service mark’ which is wider in definition to include a person, company, business or other legal or trading name.

Frequently Asked Questions about Domain Names

Q: What is cybersquatting?
A: An unauthorised party with no legitimate interest in a domain registers a domain name identical or similar to another business’s trade mark or trading name. This is usually for commercial gain, to resell back to the legitimate owner, or to park the domain on a page that generates revenue through advertisements.

Q: How much does it cost to register a domain name?
A: This will depend on the registrar you use, the type of domain extension and the period of registration.

Q: Can passing off apply for domain names?
A: The common law tort of passing off may be available to protect holders of unregistered marks from abusive and deceptive domain name registration. It is advisable to contact an intellectual property lawyer to determine your rights.

Q: What is phishing?
A: Phishing is a form of identity theft where fake emails and websites are designed to look like legitimate businesses.

How can LegalVision help me?

LegalVision assists businesses and individuals with tailored online legal advice for a fixed-fee, including legal advice domain name registrations and IP infringements. Call LegalVision today on 1300 544 755.

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