The dot com.au domain is the internet domain dedicated for use by Australian commercial entities. It is administered by the not-for-profit organisation au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA).
In 2001, auDA reversed the policy relating to the registration of generic .com.au domain names. Since about 1996, a list of some 3000 generic domain names were held on a reserved names list and were not available for registration. The basis of this restriction was that the granting of rights over generic domain names provided an unfair market advantage to the registrant.
In 2002, under a new dot com.au allocation policy (which is yet to come into effect) those generic domain names contained in the list will become available for registration. Applications are to be made online. An online auction will be conducted where more than one application is received for the same domain name.
What names are available?
A list of the approximately 3000 generic domain names that will soon be available for registration can be found at the website http://www.stuff.com.au/auda_auctions.asp?sch=stuff1&uid=guest.
The list includes names such as:
- construction.com.au; and
At this time, geographic names will not be available for registration. auDA is, however, due to consider this issue in early 2002.
Prerequisites for registration
Applications for generic domain names must be made by 5.00pm (AEST) on Thursday 31 January 2002. There is no application fee.
The new dot com.au domain name policy sets out the eligibility criteria for applicants for generic domain names. According to this policy, an applicant must be able to show that, as at 13 August 2001:
it had (and still has) an Australian (a) registered company name, (b) registered business name, or (c) trade mark application or registration, and the domain name being sought is the same as, an abbreviation of, or is otherwise 'substantially and closely connected' with the above name or trade mark.
In addition, the auDA application form states that the 'substantial and close connection' test refers to a connection between the domain name and the applicant's business activity not just the applicant's company or other name. In an example provided by auDA, ABC Communications Pty Ltd, a telecommunications carrier, can apply for telephone.com.au even though 'telephone' is not a part of their company name, because there is a substantial and close connection between the domain name and their business activity.
It is unclear at this time how broadly this test will be applied.
Application and auction process
Applications are made online at www.stuff.com.au/auda.asp. Applications will first be assessed by auDA to ensure the eligibility criteria set out above are satisfied. Particular care will be required where the applicant needs to explain the 'substantial and close connection' where this does not relate to a registered name.
Where only one eligible applicant applies for a domain name, the domain name can be secured by payment of $110 in addition to the domain name licence fee.
Where more than one eligible application is received for the same domain name, all applicants will be given a password which will enable them to participate in an online auction. All eligible applicants will be able to view the bidding process for that domain name. The highest bidder will be granted a licence to use the domain name for a set period, which will commence at the implementation date of the new dot com.au policy
A word of caution
There are a number of issues that are unclear at this time about the allocation of generic domain names. Organisations that plan to invest significant sums of money to acquire a generic domain name licence should consider obtaining legal advice on the implications of these issues prior to entering into any online auction.
Generic domain names that are not registered
Generic domain names that are not registered during this process will become available on a 'first come, first served' basis once the new .com.au domain policy is introduced in 2002 (a date has not yet been announced).
The applicant will not need to establish that they were eligible as at 13 August 2001, but only that they are eligible at the time of application.
Other generic domain names
There are generic domain names other than those on the reserve names list discussed above. At this time, it is unclear how applications for these generic domain names will be dealt with.
It is hoped that this issue will be addressed once the new dot com.au policy is fully implemented.
This newsletter provides a summary only of the subject matter covered, without the assumption of a duty of care by Freehills. The summary is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.