Legal fight for heart of Narnia
IT SEEMED like the perfect present for their son's 11th birthday – a Narnia-based website address to feed his enthusiasm for the books of CS Lewis.
But Comrie Saville-Smith's parents were surprised when they received an angry call from one of the world's biggest law firms, demanding they hand over the domain name.
When they refused, they were sent a letter offering to refund them for the cost of the site, before another was dispatched asking them to name their price for handing over the rights to email@example.com.
The Saville-Smiths – refusing to bow to pressure from Baker & McKenzie, the lawyers representing Lewis's estate – have now been sent a weighty 128-page legal document, ordering them to make their case to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Switzerland by next Monday.
Richard Saville-Smith, Comrie's father, claims the dispute echoes the "good against evil" themes of Lewis's novels.
The drama began two years ago when Mr Saville-Smith, from Edinburgh, and his wife Gillian paid 70 for the domain name from the internet registration company Fasthosts, keeping it as a surprise for Comrie's 11th birthday to coincide with release of the film of the second Narnia book later this week.
Mr Saville-Smith said: "Comrie is a voracious reader and has really got into the whole Narnia fantasy thing and we sometimes read him the story at bedtimes. Then last month, completely out the blue, my wife got a telephone call from a female lawyer at Baker & McKenzie about the domain name, saying, 'You've got to hand it over now or we'll take legal action'. Then came an email saying they would refund our costs. Then, they got in touch with us asking, 'How much would we have to offer for you to give it to us?'"
Mr Saville-Smith, a charity adviser and accountant, who is fighting his own legal case, said he was "intrigued" at the change of tone.
When the family refused to return the domain name, they received the 128-page legal complaint.
They must reply to the WIPO by 23 June, with the organisation expect-ed to makes its decision within a month. Either side can then appeal.
"If the WIPO decides in favour of the estate, that would be the end of it for us," said Mr Saville-Smith. "But I don't expect it will, as their case is flimsy and we've done nothing wrong."
Comrie, a pupil at Stewart's-Melville Junior School in Edinburgh, said: "I think it's all a bit weird, I mean, it was a birthday present to me."
Mrs Saville-Smith, an award-winning Scottish poet, added: "Our whole family are great admirers of CS Lewis and he must be turning in his grave about all this. To try to snatch away a gift intended for a boy who loves his Narnia books is unbelievable."
Baker & McKenzie did not reply to requests from The Scotsman for a comment about the legal case.
• Occupation – schoolboy at Stewart's Melville Junior School, Edinburgh.
• Age – 11
• Income – 5 a week on proviso of good behaviour, doing homework and washing behind ears.
• Legal knowledge – tactics gleaned from the Beano, which he purchases with portion of aforesaid pocket money.
• Motto – "What would Aslan do?"
• Address – quiet street in Edinburgh.
• Favourite subject at school – creative writing: winner of creative writing competition.
BAKER & McKENZIE, New York
• Established – 1949
• Status– one of the world's largest international law firms, operating in the US, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Europe.
• Income – nearly two billion dollars a year.
• Legal knowledge – vast, employs 1,300 partners and 3,600 attorneys.
• Motto – unknown, but founded by Russell Baker, a "man with a dream" who travelled by cattle car to get to college.
• Address – 1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York.
• Favourite subject – winning legal cases.
Timeline of the transatlantic battle
THIS is how the exchanges panned out:
30 APRIL: Law firm Baker & McKenzie telephone and demand the Saville-Smiths hand over the domain name. Later, an e-mail arrives saying: "We wanted to ascertain whetherRichard would agree to voluntarily transfer the domain name to CS Lewis Pte. Ltd."
5 MAY: Mr Saville-Smith responds, saying: "You seek an amicable settlement, but in your first contact you threaten my wife with legal action and then you make the same threat to me."
8 MAY: Law firm e-mails: "Further to our conversation, please advise whether you would be willing to transfer the narnia.mobi domain name to CS Lewis Pte Ltd."
8 MAY: Mr Saville-Smith e-mails back, saying: " I am not infringing their trademark, so I see no reason why I should to accede to your request."
Later the same day the law firm contacts the family, saying: "What would you consider to be a reasonable offer for which you would agree to transfer the domain name?"
9 MAY: Mr Saville-Smith e-mails, saying: "We don't want to sell the domain name, as it is a special present for a ten-year-old boy."
28 MAY: The family receives a copy of a 128-page legal complaint the law firm had filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Switzerland. The family must reply to the WIPO by 23 June.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North