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ROS fan loses Acorn domain in dispute

By Josh Eilken. Published: 6th Sep 2006, 23:21:20 | Permalink | Printable

Acorncomputers.co.uk handed over to new Acorn

Screenshot of old acornComputers.co.ukThe new Acorn Computers Limited have taken acorncomputers.co.uk off the hands of its original owner Roy Johnson following a domain name dispute hearing. The website was set up by Roy as an online roadmap to post-Acorn era companies, such as Castle and RISCOS Ltd.

A complaint was brought to Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) on May 16, 2006, where an independent expert ruled Johnson's domain was an 'abusive registration' and transferred its ownership to the new Acorn. Johnson was unable to be contacted by the DRS to take part in mediation, and ACL subsequently paid for an expert decision to take place. The company claimed that the website was misleading, as it had a prominent title of "Acorn Computers Limited", and would lead people to believe it was their official website. They argued that when the domain was registered in 2000, Element-14 still owned the Acorn trademark, making the website registration illegal.

Chris Tulley, the expert for the hearing, said he wasn't convinced that the initial registration for the domain name was abusive. He pointed out that Acorn Computers Limited only registered themselves in 2006, while Aristide & Co Antiquaire De Marques, the company which they licensed the Acorn brand from, only took ownership of the trademarks in 2003.

In his decision, Tulley wrote: "Whilst I am aware from my own general knowledge that the Acorn name was a well known business name in relation to computers in the UK in the 1980's, the Complainant has produced no evidence to support a claim to any rights to the ACORN COMPUTERS brand name prior to its registration as a company under that name on 28 January 2006 and its licence registered on 16 February 2006 under the ACORN trade mark registered as from 17 July 2003."

Tulley suggested that because Johnson had been updating the page regularly prior to ACL's licensing of the Acorn brand, that he could have demonstrated a right to keep the domain.

He added: "The Domain Name was registered in 2000 and the webpage has a visitor counter purporting to record visitors since 2001.

"In addition it states that the webpage was last updated in September 2005. These dates are all prior to the earliest date that the Complainant has demonstrated any Rights to the ACORN COMPUTERS name."

Tulley went on to say that although Johnson appeared to have been legitimately operating the site up until 2005, because there was no evidence to prove any of the dates, he couldn't give the argument any weight. ACL, the only source of evidence, were able to produce a single printout of the website from 16 May 2006, however. Tulley added that the use of the domain name by Johnson was "being used in a manner which will cause confusion".

Tulley's decision was affirmed when it was found that Johnson had not provided up-to-date contact details, which had prevented him from attending mediation in the first place. Johnson had provided the address of his company Inter-Mediates Ltd, a software vendor, which went into liquidation in November 2005. An offence in itself, this extinguished any hope of Johnson winning the case.

Tulley said: "The postal address provided by the Respondent when the Domain Name was registered in 2000 resulted in a Royal Mail return stating the 'addressee has gone away'.

"It does not state when the Respondent moved away from the address given but there is an obligation on the part of any UK domain name registrant to keep Nominet updated with a current contact address in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down by Nominet when registering domain names."

It is unknown if Johnson was aware of the hearing. Acorn Computers Limited declined to comment on the case. The acorncomputers.co.uk domain has now been turned into a mirror of ACL's main website. Drobe were unable to contact Johnson before this article went to press.


New Acorn's Nominet DRS case decision in full
Acorn Computers website Inter-Mediates goes bust from Channel Register

Previous: New Acorn reveals PC laptop website
Next: September news round up


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If it wasn't for the problem with the contact details, this would be ludicrous, worrying - in fact, downright stupid.

As it is, it's a pity that the problems with contacting Roy clouds the issue.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/9/06 9:03AM
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I see this as another example of the faux-ACL attempting to extinquish the legacy of the real Acorn, ensuring that all history of RISC OS development and its current market are erased, and all that is left is their scam to off load poor quality XP laptops on to an unsuspecting education sector.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 7/9/06 10:17AM
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Druck: well, maybe. But tbh Castle and ROL missed a trick; Acorn was still a strong brand in 1998 and a more strenuous effort to retain should arguably have been made. But it wasn't and there's nothing to stop the PC boxshifter from using the name.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 7/9/06 10:30AM
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I think it's easy to say they missed a trick now. At the time, Acorn felt like a tarnished brand - with all the (relative!) optimism around the market at that time, people felt they wanted something *new* and exciting.

Personally, I think the whole situation with ROL/Castle missed a trick, and probably spelt doom for the platform - we needed one company developing RISC OS. But maybe that's a discussion for another time.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/9/06 11:31AM
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seems this new fake "acorn computers" company really are a nasty bunch.

the domain industry is run by a load of useless parties, icann being the worst bunch of idiots of the lot, giving in to whomever comes up with the most money.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 7/9/06 12:13PM
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moss: "we needed one company developing RISC OS."

We had one for the desktop OS, it was called RISCOS Ltd.

That they didn't manage to make a very good go of it was the problem, but not altogether their fault (IMO).

 is a RISC OS UserStoppers on 7/9/06 12:27PM
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Nominet are generally fair and cheap (no lawyers required) at domain name dispute resolution. All this article points out is the importance of keeping your contact details with Nominet up to date.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 7/9/06 12:28PM
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Well, that's all a discussion for another time. I don't want to take this thread too off-topic - especially on something that's been debated a million times before. I'm sorry I brought it up, to be honest.

My main point is I can see why the Acorn name wasn't kept as a brand. In restrospect, perhaps it does seem a bit of a mistake - but at the time, it made perfect sense.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/9/06 12:29PM
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(That was in reply to Stoppers, sorry.)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/9/06 12:30PM
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This is an unjust decision: when he bought the name there was no one around with a better claim to it. ACL have a valid claim to the name now, but he paid for it in good faith before ACL existed, and he should have been allowed to retain it till it expired.

This reminds me of the time that Victoria Beckham threatened to sue Peterborough United for the rights to the name Posh. But in that case the decision was the correct one.

In reply to Druck: "poor quality XP laptops" - isn't that a tautology?

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 7/9/06 1:20PM
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cables: Yes had he been able to present evidense as to that argument he might well have won, but he didn't, so he didn't. The decision is just based on the evidense presented, which was one sided.

But perhaps the biggest problem Roy Johnson made was putting the words 'Acorn Computers Ltd' in big letters on his site, he probably never had the right to associate with that name. Had he just put 'Acorn Computers' on it, there would have been a lot less of a problem. His second issue was being non contactable, as mediation may have allowed him to keep the site as long as he removed references to 'Acorn Computers Ltd'.

Unjust? in the grand scheme of things, perhaps. Legal, well thought out desicion, yes. Read the full report if you've not had the chance yet, it's interesting reading.

Also, whilst distastful to those here, it has (at least to me, though not fully legally as nominet dispute resolution is not a court) proved that the new Acorn have a legal right to use the name 'Acorn'. Whether they have the right to associate their brand with the work of the old Acorn is still up for debate ... by MSDW/Cabot 2/4. I have no right to crusade against them on MSDWs behalf, and doing so would open myself up to legal action, from the new Acorn and from MSDW.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 7/9/06 1:45PM
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In reply to flibble:

Facts are facts. Roy Johnson had not updated the site in a year, and had not updated the website's contact details with Nominet. Even if he came back tomorrow, his claim to the site is pretty much finished. We can only assume he has gone to ground because of personal circumstances which were too sudden for him to pass on the website to another party, or he simply can't be bothered.

In the light of such circumstances, Nominet made the right decision.

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 7/9/06 4:06PM
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I haven't got a problem with him not updating the site for a year - once people own a domain, they should be allowed to do what they want with it.

But the contact details stuff is inexcusable, and definitely an understandable reason why Nominet made the decision they did.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/9/06 4:19PM
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The problem with the word 'Acorn' is that, in educational circles, it has long been firmly connected with infant and primary schools. Any company wanting to sell computers to secondary schools and Universities is not giving its products the image boost it could by branding itself 'Acorn'. It's saying 'I'm a childs computer'.

We're well rid of the name.

If another company has decided to repeat a mistake around 25 years ago, then more fool them.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 7/9/06 11:39PM
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I wonder if there is going to be trouble over the general use of the word Acorn. For example I've no doubt that somewhere on my web site or other material I use the phrase "Acorn Computers" or "Software for Acorn Computers". Am I now going to be faced with pressure from the new trade mark owner. What happens when someone writes "My Acorn Computer is rubbish because you can't use Windows XP on it". Has someone got to invent a short hand for which Acorn Computers we're talking about. Presumably if you're the new ACL you'd like any negative feelings from the past erased from the web. For years people (i.e. from outside the RISC OS world) laughed when I said I wrote software for Acorn Computers - "oh yes those crap BBC computers we had at Junior School". I'm not so sure there is a rosy glow attached to the name. You've got all the people who hated anything to do with school, and then you've got all the people (e.g. schools) who bought Acorn Computers post 1987 and eventually abandoned them for PCs - wasted money, painful change, disapointment.

 is a RISC OS UserDavidPilling on 8/9/06 1:40PM
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Having Acorn computers does open up opportunities to tell the world that RISC OS is the real heir to the Acorn legacy. So lets piggyback on the publicity they generate.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 9/9/06 1:19PM
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Just to clarify, having Acorn Computers meant having a company trying to reuse the brand Acorn in the marketplace.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 9/9/06 1:20PM
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What about the comp.sys.acorn.* newsgroups? Will the new ACL try to close them down or take them over?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 9/9/06 2:49PM
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And what about Acorn categories on Web-Directories like dmoz.org? What about search results on search engines?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 9/9/06 2:53PM
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IO doubt these guy have thought of or care about any of those.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 9/9/06 4:03PM
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markee174: "Having Acorn computers does open up opportunities to tell the world that RISC OS is the real heir to the Acorn legacy. So lets piggyback on the publicity they generate."

Three questions; How? How? and How?

They are the ones getting the publicity both from both paid advertising and PR releases, stating that they are the relaunched Acorn Computers Ltd and Acorn now means Windows PCs. So how can we "piggyback" on that? Issue PR has no newsworthy content (stuff that Acorn used to make is still around and no Windows software works on it), or pay to take out facing page adverts (they arent the real Acorn, we are, so there) any place where faux-ACL are mentioned in any publication?

Unless an injunction is taken out to stop them fraudulently trading on an unrelated companies reputation, there are only two ways this will go. If they don't do well, they will just swan off an open another box shifting operation leaving leaving debts, unsupported customers, and headlines that Acorn have gone bust for second time (despsite it not going bust the first time), forever tarnishing the real Acorn's reputation. On the other hand if they are sucessful they will want to protect the brand and they *will* come after anyone using the Acorn name.

This just being the first example of them grabbing the Acorn name, and did it generate any publicity for RISC OS? No. To the rest of the world its just another domain squatter getting his comeupance.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/9/06 11:10AM
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When it surfaces on the internet, there is generally a chance to post comments correcting what they are saying and also stating RISC OS is still alive.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 11/9/06 11:12AM
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You mean in feed back pages and blogs that absolutely no one reads? Comment #3794 after 3793 of "didn't we used to use them in school, and werent they crap". That isn't publicity, its bearly even background noise.

About the only thing you could do that would have the remotest of effect is google bomb the keyword Acorn and point it at a page which explains what they are up to, and then wait for the take down notice from their lawyers.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/9/06 11:25AM
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Ugh... just visited the 'new' site to read: "Acorn recommends Microsoft ® Windows® XP". There's something I never thought I'd see :-(

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 11/9/06 12:43PM
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I'm looking for a laptop at the moment, and I was tempted to get one of these new Acorns and install VRPC on it. I think it would be rather ironic to have a "new" Acorn computer running RISC OS, as Acorn computers should. I was not very impressed with the prices though!

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 11/9/06 3:23PM
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In reply to JGZimmerle: I wouldn't be surprised if at some time they will look into getting the comp.sys.acorn.* newsgroups done with ... or on the other hand, perhaps the users of the new Acorn computers will start chatting there about all their problems they have with Windows XP etc. so that it might even happen automatically that the RISC OS and BBC users kind of are drowned in comp.sys.acorn.* ;-)

And think of AAUG ... lucky that most RISC OS user groups don't have "Acorn" in their name... the others should consider renaming in time...

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 11/9/06 5:07PM
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Anyone polluting *our* newsgroups with Windows issues will have me to deal with.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/9/06 5:42PM
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Presumably Castle were aware of this possibility, hence the Iyonix being virtually Acorn-less.

What happens to Castle's Acorn A7000 now? AFAIK it has never been discontinued.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 11/9/06 6:36PM
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Bah... let's try again to post that!

I was replying to Jess about the Acorn A7000+ and how it appears on their website site. I can't remember exactly what I said, but I ended by pointing out that all the instances of the word Acorn on www.castle-technology.co.uk can be found via [link]

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 11/9/06 7:05PM
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Ugh, and I've just noticed what the first of the sponsored links is on that Google search! :-(

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 11/9/06 7:09PM
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Since Castle make the Acorn A7000+ computer und have done so since well before the new ACL came to be, does Castle not have the older rights to the name? Maybe Castle could sue them and get a decent pile of cash in the settlement?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 11/09/06 10:15PM
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Castle doesn't make A7000 computers any more. About a year ago they stopped making them. Problems with components or something like that. We realy needed A7000 computers thats why we got the last 4 of them, but without a case.

Peter V.

 is a RISC OS UserPeter on 13/09/06 11:58AM
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Wasn't there something about Castle still having the rights to sell Acorn-badged stuff, or has my brain wandered off into some other reality?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 13/09/06 12:37AM
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What is more worrying than this about the new acorn is apparently advertising standards agency has said the new acorn has proved they have the rights to use the nut logo....

Surely this can't be possible as we know the nut logo is still a registered trade mark owned by someone who was involved in acorn....

I still can't see how new acorn have managed to prove they have rights to the nut logo but apparently they can...

Maybe someone who knows the owner of the nut logo can contact him so he can defend his rights of ownership of the trade mark.


 is a RISC OS Usermrmac on 02/10/06 12:14AM
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