What is a domain name?

A domain name is an internet address consisting of a string of alphanumeric characters and dashes separated by periods, for example www.pof.com.au. Domain names can be registered in one of the generic top-level domains such as com.au or co.nz.

The uses of a domain name that most people would be familiar with are to operate a website (e.g. www.pof.com.au) or email (e.g. Melbourne@pof.com.au). Like a company or business name, a domain name licence is technically not intellectual property (IP), and there are no proprietary rights in a domain name licence. However, domain names can be closely tied to IP rights.

Importance of registration

Domain names can be one of an organisations’s most valuable assets. Typing a domain name into a browser is still the most common way people find websites, and email is the most popular form of communication in business.

The integral role the internet plays in business today means the domain name strategy of a company is important and should be treated as a high priority. A short-sighted approach to domain names can be expensive, particularly if another organisation registers the business name as a domain name and the company needs to make significant changes to the branding of the company.

A domain name should be registered for a number of reasons:

  • Strong domain names are scarce and are a rapidly diminishing commodity.
  • They are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • They are a vital aspect of corporate branding.
  • They are as important as trademarks and serve as your online identity in an increasingly global marketplace.

Trade marks and domain names

It is wise to check whether the name you are registering may infringe on someone else’s trade mark or business name. However, generic terms cannot be trade marked to the point of the exclusion of others using the word combinations – so these sorts of domain names are safe to register.

Generic one word domain names are virtually impossible to locate, and therefore two or three word combinations that are strongly related to the product or service are recommended.

Registering a name

After a domain name has been chosen and appropriately searched, a domain name registration request needs to be submitted to a registrar. The following information will be required:

  • The desired domain name
  • The name and contact information (including email address, physical address and contact phone number) for the domain’s registrant, administrative and billing contacts
  • The desired domain registration term
  • Payment information.

Once this information has been provided, the registrar will then initiate the domain name registration process. The registrar will send the domain name request, and the contact and technical information of the domain name to the registry.

The registry files the contact information for the Whois. The registry also adds the domain zone files to the master servers. These master servers tell other servers on the internet where your website is stored. The domain is considered registered and ready-to-use when all information has been updated.


The best method to avoid conflict of trade marks is to search the trade mark databases. It provides all the registered and pending trade marks information. The regulations governing copyright issues for domain names are governed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The right for a domain name registration may be lost if:

  • A name has been intentionally chosen that is similar to another domain name or trade mark to create consumer confusion.
  • A business is not carried under the proposed name.
  • The individual, or any other individual in the company, carries a name that is the same or similar.
  • It is the sole intention of the applicant to sell the domain name to a competitor for financial gain.