In August 2021, an announcement from .au Domain Administration (.auDA) announced the launch of second level domain names (<.au>), commencing on 24 March 2022. The release second level domain names is designed to provide:
- A wider choice of available names;
- Registrants with the opportunity to register shorter and memorable names; and
- Names that are easier to display.
To protect your brand reputation and minimise the likelihood of brand misappropriation, it may be prudent to register a second level domain name.
What does this mean?
Second level domain names will be available for all individuals, associations and businesses with an Australian presence. In effect, unlike existing third level domain names (e.g. .com.au and .net.au), registrants will not need to establish an existing service, good, event, activity or commercial connection with the domain name.
Existing third level domain names will be reserved from being registered as a second level domain name during the first six-month priority allocation period. This will allow your business to apply for a ‘Priority Status’ and register for an exact match of a second level domain name to your existing third level domain name. For example, a company that operates as ”widget.com.au” will be able to apply for a ‘Priority Status’ to become the holders of <widget.au>.
However, if you do not apply for a ‘Priority Status’ during the priority allocation period, the reserved domain name will be available to the public on a first-come, first served basis.
Determination of Priority
All eligible ‘Priority Status’ applications will be separated into two categories:
- Category 1 – domain names registered before 4 February 2018; and
- Category 2 – domain names registered after 4 February 2018.
In the event there are multiple ‘Priority Status’ applications for the same second level domain name, category 1 applicants will have priority over category 2 applicants.
Where there are multiple category 1 applications, the second level domain name will remain unallocated and reserved indefinitely until the registrants negotiate and agree on the allocation between themselves.
Where there are multiple category 2 applications, the second level domain name will be allocated to the registrant with the earliest third level domain name licence.
If you possess an existing third level domain name, it is recommended that you register for a second level domain name during the priority allocation period to protect the reputation of your brand even if there are no other eligible registrants. This will enable you to remain competitive and continue to build trust with your customers as domain names can easily be misused by unrelated third parties. Essentially, the registration of a second level domain name is another method for you to protect your brand online.
LSW’s commercial team advises clients on protecting their intellectual property, including domain names and is experienced un utilising au.DA’s dispute resolution processes where a registered domain name infringes the intellectual property rights. LSW is advising clients on their eligibility, priority category and is available to assist clients in relation to any negotiations for those who have a dispute due to competing priorities.
Important Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.