Bakers wins Narnia domain name battle

Bakers wins Narnia domain name battleBaker & McKenzie has prevailed over a Scottish family in a fight over the domain name, after a decision from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Gillian Ferguson and Richard Saville-Smith bought the email domain name in 2006, so that their son, an avid fan of the Chronicles of Narnia books by author CS Lewis, might receive emails at that address direct to his mobile phone. The gift was for their son’s 11th birthday.

Baker & McKenzie partner Lisa Rosaya represented the CS Lewis Company, the owner of the Narnia author’s estate, which claimed that Ferguson and Saville-Smith acted in “bad faith” when buying the domain name. Saville-Smith and his wife instructed Alistair Payne, head of IP at Irish firm Matheson Orsmby Prentice.

WIPO sided with the CS Lewis Company, saying: “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.”

The court handed ownership of the domain name to the CS Lewis Company, prompting the family to issue a strongly worded statement: “In a scandalously one-sided appraisal of the evidence, this decision by a one-man panel, who is supposed to be impartial, allows a multi-million dollar company to seize a domain name which was purchased entirely legitimately by ourselves and has not been used in any way improperly or illegally.”

The family added: “[C.S. Lewis] is an author whom we much admire – he must be spinning in his grave at this decision: power and money wrongly victorious over the innocent use of a child who loves Narnia.”

The Narnia case sparked a mountain of comment after The Lawyer revealed that Bakers was taking the case against the couple (The Lawyer, June 16)