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Brand Protection Gone Mad.

Garry Boyd
From an Intellectual Capital Perspective

Issue 73: July 2008
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C. S. Lewis would no doubt turn in his grave…….
The creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, the richly talented CS Lewis, would be no doubt horrified to learn that the CS Lewis Company, the owners of the author’s estate, have bought down the might of the law upon a 10 year old boy for daring to accept a birthday present from his Mum and Dad in the shape of the domain name >Narnia.mobi<.

Yep, brand protection gone mad.

Richard and Gillian Saville-Smith paid $145 for the name for their son Comrie, a Narnia devotee. The very proper management of the CS Lewis Company took such exception to this apparently hideous attempt by the lad to enrich himself at the great writers expense they employed the might of Baker and McKenzie of New York (where else) to do battle with Mum and Dad in an effort to have the name “returned” to a place of safe comfort and dreams not dissimilar to Narnia itself.

Despite Dad’s firm assertion that the notion of profiteering from the name was certainly not what motivated him to make the purchase, Baker and McKenzie filed a 128 page complaint with WIPO, who have enough of their own problems…….

How strange that a young fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, written between 1949 and 1954 is at risk of losing his birthday present to a law firm with 1,300 partners and 3,600 lawyers and a revenue of US$1.829 billion in 2007 that was founded in 1949!No doubt the treasured revenue will increase dramatically at the expense of the CS Lewis Company.

Richard Saville-Smith made a legitimate purchase through dotMobi and the CS Lewis Company were not vigilant enough to act on the purchase before the 3 month sunrise period where owners of a trademark have the exclusive right to purchase all names relating to their name before the names go on public sale. Big Ouch!

Somebody is not going to be in Narnia after this little wrangle.

When CS Lewis wrote about an enduring, much loved place where animals talk, magic abounds and evil is smartly shown the door he would never have dreamed that the future management of his exquisite writing would devalue his name by employing one of the giants of law to try damn hard to kick the suitcase out of a 10 year old kid that has bought all seven of the Chronicles of Narnia.

To belt a kid over the head with 128 pages of legal intimidation in an effort to protect a brand from predatory interlopers has the reverse effect. The fact is, CS Lewis has become a damaged brand in the eyes of many.

In a perverse twist, Richard and Gillian presented each other with >.mobi< names. Richard copped >USPresident.mobi< and Gillian is the proud owner of >TheQueen.mobi<.

We can only speculate whether or not Richard and Gillian are going to be set upon by Baker and McKenzie acting on instructions from either Elizabeth ll, Margrethe ll, Beatrix or the obscure Queen Ntombi Thwala, of Swaziland. Indeed, an action may be instigated by any number of Drag Queens around the globe…………one can imagine a contingent reminiscent of Priscilla, Queen of the desert tottering into Baker and McKenzie, complete with purple high heels with “Class action!” being venomously spat from bright red lips. Or, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and a couple of Bush’s might even take offence.

This writer wonders if any one of the 5,000 brilliant legal minds at Baker and McKenzie are asking themselves if there is any relevance in the fact that it is highly unlikely the young reader of the Chronicles of Narnia, Comrie Saville-Smith has or is intending to enrich himself financially at the expense of the estate of CS Lewis?

The answer to both questions would seem to be a resounding no!

CS Lewis management appear to have been not in a hurry to engage somebody to monitor their precious names and be ready to pounce with a small cheque book within the three month window of opportunity……..the small cheque book has now turned into eye-watering billable hours at New York rates………..that’s a lot of book sales.

For WIPO to rule against young Comrie’s right to keep his birthday present, they would have to decide that the name was acquired in “bad faith”. Isn't it strange that there is no mention of the name being sold in “bad faith”. But then again, a 10 year old kid would be considered a push-over by these proud warriors that are pursuing him.

In the wash-up, CS Lewis’s wonderful Narnia has been tarnished, WIPO, Baker and McKenzie or both will wish they had never heard of the place and young Comrie Saville-Smith could become the most well-known kid on the plant for slaying one of the biggest law firms going around.

By the time this is over, the only people likely to find any humour in the fact that CS Lewis was born in Belfast, rather than Scotland will be the Saville-Smith’s, of Edinburgh.

Sales of The Chronicles of Narnia are in the region of 100 million copies and have been printed in 41 languages. Somebody must think the legacy of CS Lewis will be irreversibly damaged by a 10 year old.

Comrie, my advice is to get into Harry Potter. I doubt that JK Rowling would treat you with such contempt. Oh, and by the way, tell your Mum and Dad good on them for not falling over.

Garry Boyd.

July 2008.


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