Joe Sieffert has received widespread coverage of his intention to build a "Norton" single based on the Austrian Rotax single. List price, around £7,000. And on seeing this, most of us wondered why? Unlike John Bloor's revival of Triumph, Joe Sieffert doesn't have deep enough pockets or an attractive enough bike to make a go of it. If you want a German single, MuZ make the very desireable Skorpion; based on a reliable Yamaha engine, winner of design awards and about two-thirds the price. Are Norton enthusiasts so devoted to the marque that they'll pay over the odds for a backyard special? (well maybe some are, but not enough to put food on the table). Or perhaps he's a total megalomanic who just wants to build his own bikes, but if that were the case surely he'd call them Sieffert's.
Trade mark law is a complicated affair and simply owning a trade mark is not enough. If you don't use it you lose it. Go into any Esso petrol station and somewhere you'll see the Exxon logo, in use to maintain its currency in the UK. Joe Sieffert is building bikes that no one wants at an unrealistic price because he doesn't really want to sell any. Ok, if you knock on his door and wave Deutschmarks under his nose he'll probably take your money. But the real game is to maintain the Norton trademark as a manufacturer of complete motorcycles. And if no one in Britain is building Nortons he'll probably be able to lay claim to world-wide rights in the not too distant future.
But if he doesn't want to build bikes what's his motive in holding on to the name? Well, if Norton Motors International want to badge their Nemesis machine they'll have to come to some accomodation with Kaiser Joe. In short, buy him out.
So, when is a Norton not a Norton? When its a lottery ticket. But don't blame Joe Sieffert, he's a business man looking for a return on his investment. And it seems he's a bike enthusiast as well. The real villains of the piece are Phillipe De Roux and his dodgy mates. They're the ones who sold the Norton name in the first place!