GENEVA (Reuters) - A Scottish schoolboy must surrender a Web address tied to the Narnia fantasy world, which his father said was a birthday present, after a ruling by a United Nations arbitrator, an official report said on Thursday.
The U.N.’s patent and copyright agency WIPO said the independent arbitrator had ordered transfer of the site, www.narnia.mobi, to the estate of C.S.Lewis, late author of the popular “Chronicles of Narnia” books.
“We are shocked by the decision,” Gillian, the mother of 11-year-old Comrie Saville-Smith told the Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh after they were given advance notice of the ruling on Wednesday.
“We put up a spirited fight because we wanted to prove that you do not have to hand something over just because someone richer and more powerful tells you to do so,” she said, according to a report on the Scotsman website.
The case was brought to WIPO in May by the multi-billion dollar Lewis estate, registered in Singapore, as “Prince Caspian,” the second of a planned series of films based on the Chronicles, was about to go on worldwide release.
The estate’s lawyers, the U.S.-based Baker and McKenzie, filed the complaint in May after the Saville-Smiths rejected offers to buy back the site, for which they paid 70 sterling ($140) when the .mobi domain went on sale in 2006.
Media in Scotland have portrayed the case as a Narnia-like battle between a family determined to defend what they see as justice and a wealthy corporate giant — a theme some have compared to the “good v. evil” thread in the books.
But the estate’s lawyers argued — in a plea accepted by arbitrator William R.Towns — that Comrie’s father Richard, who registered other Narnia-linked sites like freenarnia.mobi after the case was filed, had not acted in full honesty.
The arbitrator ruled that Saville-Smith “registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.”
Towns, a Texas trademark specialist, said he was not convinced Saville-Smith had not aimed to make money from narnia.mobi by allowing it to be linked to commercial sites. Saville-Smith denied this.
In the eight years since WIPO set up its Internet dispute system, it has handled thousands of cases involving famous names of companies and people being used by so-called cyber-squatters to divert business to themselves or associates.
In his ruling, Towns said there had been no indication in defence papers he had seen that there had been any preparation to use narnia.mobi as an e-mail address until the Lewis estate began proceedings.
But all is not yet lost for Comrie, a self-styled Narnia fan.
An official at WIPO, the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organisation, said the dispute system allows for an appeal to be filed in a normal court within 10 days after an arbitrator’s ruling.
Experts say an appeal by the family, whose own lawyer is another WIPO domain-name dispute panellist, would have to be filed in the United States where the Internet registrar for .mobi is based.
The transfer order on the site would be suspended until the appeal judge handed down a decision.
Editing by Richard Balmforth