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Monday, 16 June 2008

Narnia domain name dispute

According to a report from Reuters (and noted in numerous other places including here, here and here), a Scottish couple is facing the wrath of the estate of CS Lewis, author of the Narnia series of books, for acquiring the domain name narnia.mobi. The domain name was apparently acquired so that the couple's son, who is a great fan of the books, could use it for his email address.

The couple now have less than a week to respond to the 128 page complaint, filed at the domain name dispute resolution service run by WIPO, after which a decision will be made on whether the domain should be transferred. They are quoted as saying, "We don't have the money to hire intellectual property lawyers, so we're saying 'help.' One thing for sure is that our response won't be 128 pages long, it will be more like 10 pages -- we're looking at quality rather than quantity".

The IPKat wonders if any of his readers would be interested in helping this couple out. On first sight the case seems fairly hopeless, but this particular Kat is by no means an expert on domain name disputes. He would, however, be interested to see how it turns out.

7 comments:

twr57 said...

H'm.

At first sight, this looks like sledgehammer and nut territory. How mean to pick on a couple whose only interest is to have a congenial email address for their son! However, if you go to http://www.narnia.mobi/ , you find a list of eight or nine 'sponsored links'. Is the interest entirely non-commercial? If it is, then maybe suitable undertakings could settle the dispute?

nk said...

From the news, it is not completely honest practice of the couple since they 'park' the domain name to gain some profit.

Iris said...

The Saville-Smiths are media consultants - see their website at saville-ferguson.co.uk, so it's no surprise that this rather ordinary story hit the news. In a fairly typical case of cybersquatting, what other option do they have? Of course the site is not yet active but there are sponsored links that could generate traffic. You would expect that once Prince Caspian is released later this month, traffic to those links would increase.

The whole birthday present excuse is weak - what have they given him for the last two years? It's rather shameful of them to be using their little boy in this way, frankly. And if they're sincere, then they're clearly not as "darn brainy" as they think they are (see the "who we are" page on their website - a classic!)

Anonymous said...

If you're following politics in Britain, here's a more interesting domain name problem.

Mark said...

Even without the advertising links, the couple were going to struggle to rebut the almost inevitable prima facie finding that they had no legitimate rights/interest. Perhaps they could have made an argument under the Oki Data principles, but they shot themselves in the foot by saying that the domain was for their son).

In terms of bad faith, I think they're almost certainly onto a loser as the panel's likely to make a finding of opportunistic bad faith (a la Veuve Clicquot v The Polygenix Group Co.).

The only real way out looks like demonstrating (with some pretty impressive evidence) that they were really going to give the website to their son in order to prevent the proprietors of the "Narnia" trade mark demonstrating bad faith registration (explaining why they'd parked the site to make a profit in the meantime might be difficult though).

If they've got other domains which are borderline, it seems like handing over the domain now to try and avoid a decision against them coming back to haunt them in future proceedings would be the best move (even then there's no guarantee that the panel won't make a decision anyway - perhaps an undertaking from the "Narnia" proprietors to request that the panel cease proceedings in exchange for handing over the domain immediately?).

MJR said...

I was a bit concerned when I first read this because I thought the Potterwar had prevented that sort of thing happening for good. On closer inspection though, it doesn't seem like the Potterwar issue at all. I think that Ma shot herself squarely in the foot when, interviewed on the Today programme on Monday, having claimed they purchased the domain name for their son to use as an email address, she admitted that it has never been used for this purpose.

Zak Muscovitch said...

Just to add the epilogue to this story, the case was lost by the registrants...

See: http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/decisions/html/2008/d2008-0821.html

This was the most remarkable ratio from the single panelist:

"For the reasons discussed under the preceding heading of this decision, the Panel cannot envision any plausible, good faith basis upon which the Respondent could have concluded that he was free to appropriate the Complainant’s distinctive and widely known NARNIA mark for use as a personal email address."

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