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Family lose fight to keep Narnia domain name

24 July 2008

An Edinburgh couple who bought a Narnia-based domain name for their 11-year-old son have been forced to hand it back by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Gillian and Richard Saville-Smith bought the domain name for £70 for their son Comrie for his birthday when it became available online. However they were then confronted with a claim by lawyers for the estate of C S Lewis, the author of the Narnia books, that the name belonged to their client.

The Saville-Smiths refused, arguing that they had bought the name in good faith from a legitimate company and there had been no attempt to profit from it. However an adjudicator of the WIPO panel yesterday ruled in favour of the estate.

In its ruling the panel stated that it "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", and noted that Mr Saville-Smith had registered a dozen other domain names, five of which implicated third party rights and all but one of which were rediredted to pages generating pay-per-click advertising revenue. The circumstances called in question his motive in registering the domain name and were sufficient to indicate bad faith.

Mrs Saville-Smith claimed that their own evidence had simply been ignored and that it was clear from the judgment that the panel had decided in advance to award the decision to the estate. The family did not have the means to continue the fight.