Any business owner knows how important it is to have a good website for their business. The most common in Australia is currently the .com.au domain name, however the new .au extension came about around April 2021 and offers higher visibility online, as well as letting people know that you are a trusted Australian business

In a nutshell, the domain changes mean you’ll be seeing “.au” extensions on sites around the internet, not just “com.au”. 

If you operate a website, it’s important to be aware of the changes and take any relevant action to keep your website name secure. If you do choose to change your domain name and register the .au name, it’s worth understanding how this process will work. 

What Is The New .au Domain?

The Australian Domain Administration (auDA) has released a second level domain name which is a shortened version of the extensions we are used to seeing. For example, sprintlaw.com.au can now be sprintlaw.au after registering for the update. 

From 24 March 2022, individuals can apply for an .au domain name. 

There is a six month priority application period between 24th March and 20th September 2022. Applying during this time is important if you want your new domain name to be exactly the same as your current one. It’s also a great idea if you want to redirect people to your existing .com.au site, and to prevent other people from taking your name (we’ll cover this in more detail later in the article). 

This priority application period essentially reserves a name. So, if the name is not registered during that time, then the name will go to the first person to apply for it when the priority period ends in September.. 

The official website for the .au domain is auDA, so if you want to learn more about how you can change your domain name following this change, it’s worth familiarising yourself with auDA and reading through their rules. You can also browse through a list of retailers where you can register your new domain name on the gummy.au site. 

Did The .au Domain Name Rules Change?

Yes, licensing rules have also changed as of 12 April 2021. These licensing rules are essentially rules for how the new .au extension will work. For example, it covers details around dispute resolution and how complaints will be handled. 

The new rules are as follows: 

To successfully register this new domain name, you now also need to meet stricter criteria around the Australian presence requirement. Your business can prove this in many ways, such as establishing Australian citizenship or proving that your business was registered under the Corporations Act 2001

One of the more common ways to meet the requirement is to show that you have an Australian trade mark. 

Previously, if you wanted to use this trade mark to establish an Australian presence, you just needed to show that the name you chose was ‘closely and substantially connected’ to your registered trade mark. 

Following the changes, however, businesses now need to use a name that is an exact match of their registered trade mark, not just a similar one. Put simply, auDA has refined the criteria for meeting the Australian presence requirement.  

If you can’t satisfy the requirement on an Australian trade mark basis, you’ll need to make sure your business can use another basis listed on auDA’s website

It’s important to register your preferred domain name before another person claims the name you want. 

Can I Register An .au Domain If Someone Else Has The “.com.au” Version Of The Domain Name?

If you want to register an .au extension, but the name you want to use is already registered as a .com.au domain name, you can still use this name. However, you need to make sure you’ve applied during the priority application period so that auDA attends to your request first. 

For example, if you want to register laptopsRus.au, but laptopsRus.com.au already exists, you can still apply for the .au name. Your chances of securing this name will be higher if you apply during the priority application period. 

However, if the name is a registered trademark, you cannot use it as this would infringe their trade mark. The trade mark owner would be able to take legal action against you, even if you made a priority application. 

For example, McDonalds has trademarked their name. So, even though they only have a .com.au domain name, you cannot apply to register mcdonalds.au as a domain name because this is a trademarked name. 

Trade marks are a great way to protect your business name. With the new .au domain having come into effect, you may want to take steps to secure your domain name by registering it as a trademark

This way, if someone tries to use your domain name, you can take legal action against them.We’ll cover this in more detail later in the article. 

Why Should I Secure My .au Domain Name?

The .com.au extension is still commonly used and will remain available. However, if you do choose to adopt an .au extension, it’s important that you secure it quickly. 

Securing an .au domain name can signify that you’re a trusted Australian business, which is always great for your brand. It’s also short and sweet, so it’s easy for users to remember.

Business owners that have their own website will need to take action fast. A business’ branding is often linked to the name, therefore it’s vital to ensure that you register your desired domain name prior to it being picked up by another. 

What Happens If Someone Takes My Business’ .au Domain Extension?

If another person has taken your .au before you could register it, then you may have to settle for something that is a little different. However, this would only be the case if you have not registered your business name as a trademark with IP Australia. 

If you have a registered trade mark for the name, you have legal standing to sue if someone takes your name and tries to register it as a .au domain. 

So, if your business name is not trademarked, your safest option is to apply during the priority application period to avoid potential disputes.  

How Do I Register An .au Domain Name?

A domain name can be registered through an official registrar. The auDA website has a list of registrars that have been authorised by them in providing domain names. 

The process of registering a domain name will initially involve searching for your desired name and seeing what is available, then proceeding to purchase it for use. 

As mentioned above, it’s wise to try to secure an .au domain extension during the priority period (24 March – 20 September 2022).

Next Steps 

If you want to boost your business’ online visibility, then you may wish to register a “.au” domain for your website. The best way to do this is to secure  your domain name prior to it being taken by someone else. 

To fully protect your business name against improper use in domain names and other areas, look into trademarking your name

Our expert IP lawyers can guide you through trade mark registration and other protections for your business’ intellectual property.  


Reach out at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations quote.

About Sprintlaw

Sprintlaw is a new type of law firm that operates completely online and on a fixed-fee basis. We’re on a mission to make quality legal services faster, simpler and more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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