Drawings held by the NOC
Those of our customers who are members of the English “Norton Owners Club” (“NOC”) may have seen “An important Announcement” by the NOC’s chairman, Tim Harrison, in the club’s magazine “Roadholder”.
From the “Announcement” you may have gotten the impression that Andover Norton (“AN”) has, out of the blue, attacked the NOC with lawyers to get hold of drawings the NOC reputedly bought from Joe Francis Motors in 1991.
It is beneficial for the understanding of the situation to have all the facts, not just the careful selection of them given by Harrison.
In May, 2015, Andover Norton acquired, in the asset sale of Mick Hemmings Motorcycles, casting equipment for Dominator cylinder barrels. We subsequently found that the party that had machined the barrels for the Hemmings declined to give us the computer programmes and jigs the Hemmings had paid this party for. After several months of fruitless discussions we terminated all dealings with that party and looked elsewhere for drawings.
As an NOC member for forty years I knew about a stack of drawings the NOC had. We also happened to have a list of about a third of these drawings and, from this list, knew the drawings we needed to do the barrels were amongst them.
I therefore approached Tim Harrison, chairman of the NOC, at our Open Day in July 2016(!) about a copy of the relevant drawings. He claimed this needed to be decided by the NOC committee. Though I did enquire again and again nothing came off it. So on 23rd March, 2017, our lawyers wrote formally to the NOC. Following this I was approached by committee members who talked me into speaking eye-to-eye instead of through lawyers. I, foolishly I must now say, agreed.
In the following months a lot of email exchanges and talks took place during which a never-ending number of excuses were given why we could not have the drawings immediately, and the decision was postponed endlessly. There was always that “next committee meeting next month” where a conclusion was promised to be made, but it never was.
Researching the matter in the meantime I spoke to many people who played a role in the club at the time the drawings were bought, and also looked into the legal background of the copyright of the drawings. It became crystal clear the copyright was the property of Andover Norton, who had first bought the pre-Rotary Norton Spares Business from Norton Motors in 1991 and were irrevocably assigned the intellectual property on all Norton twin parts pre-2002 in a license agreement with Norton America LLC, to date the holder of the Norton trademarks, in 2003. Copies of these agreements were consequently supplied to the NOC committee.
I tried to make the committee see reason one last time in May 2018, flying in from Munich especially to meet committee members Tim Harrison and Peter White in Andover. We agreed on a deal that gave enough benefit for the NOC for Tim Harrison to “sell” it to the few reluctant members on the committee. My proposal encompassed a lot more than just a sum of money as claimed in the NOC notes. It offered the NOC, who had not made use of the drawings for over a quarter of a century, our assistance in manufacturing spares, be it the manufacture of forgings, castings, or getting parts machined or fabricated.
They could make any single parts they wished.
On twin parts, either we would make them if we were interested, or the NOC could make with our permission parts of no commercial interest to AN, or we would make a joint effort to manufacture.
Again, a decision could not be reached by the committee, so, at the “International Rallye” in Austria on 18th/19th August 2018 Tim Harrison and I discussed the matter yet again. The impression I got was that he suggested we should put legal pressure on the NOC to get the committee to reach a decision because he himself felt unable to.
Which is what we did after over two years of being polite and reasonable with a club committee that hindered us to manufacture non-available spare parts for the benefit of their members, something the NOC had not managed to do with the drawings they wrongly thought were theirs to do so for 27 years.
The offering of the drawings we needed that Tim Harrison cites in his “Important Announcement” came on 9th September 2018, only after our lawyers had challenged the NOC. That is over two years after asking him and the NOC for help to make a non-available part from our own IP.
What everybody needs to realise is that we have the interests of ALL Norton owners, whether they are members of the NOC and/or customers of Andover Norton, directly or through other sources, at heart. The idea is to keep Nortons, all Nortons, on the road for as long as people wish to proudly ride them. And to extend the range of parts available to Norton owners.
AN are in the best position to do the latter as they already have the expertise, the experience, the procedures, the product liability insurance and the facilities. NOC, Limited or not, do not have any of these things and are in no position to arrange the manufacture of quality-assured parts.
I let my NOC membership of forty years lapse because I could not continue to support a club that acts against the interests not only of its own members, but of all Norton owners worldwide.
Please form your own opinion.
Joe Seifert, Director, Andover Norton