Saturday, 27 Nov 2021

Author to sue John Lewis after accusing them of stealing dragon in famous ad

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A children's author is taking John Lewis to court in a "David versus Goliath battle" over the likeness of a character she created that is "strikingly similar" to one in the retail giant's 2019 Christmas advert.

Fay Evans, 48, from Macclesfield, Cheshire released self-published picture book Fred the Fire Sneezing Dragon in September 2017 and two years later John Lewis released a much-loved character of their own, named Excitable Edgar.

She said when the advert appeared on TV in 2019 she was "inundated" with readers who thought the character and narrative was based on Fred, Cheshire Live reported.

Now solicitors are taking legal action on behalf of Fay and copyright infringements proceedings have been filed against the retailer and its advertising agency DDB UK.

A spokesman for John Lewis said the company ‘strongly denies’ the claim and has time stamped documents proving Edgar was conceived of in 2016 – before Fred.

Mum-of-one Fay, who lives off Congleton Road, said: “When I watched the John Lewis Christmas advert for the first time, I was gobsmacked – I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing unfold before me.

“Within ten minutes of the advert being released online I was inundated with messages regarding the resemblance to my book.

“I’ve since heard from many readers who genuinely thought that I had worked with the makers of the advert and that they were watching Fred’s story on the television.”

The John Lewis advert featured a cute, young dragon that was green in colour and caused trouble because it could not control his fire breathing and unintentionally set things alight.

He is snubbed by people until he uses his power to light a Christmas pudding and gains their acceptance.

Fay, who has instructed law firm Brandsmiths to act on her behalf, says the infringement claim is not only based on appearance but character traits and the advert’s narrative.

In her book Fred causes chaos with his uncontrollable fiery emissions and is shunned by humans until he wins their admiration by emitting a blast of fire which cooks food perfectly.

She is currently working with the Lowry Theatre to create stage production Fred: The Musical.

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The case is going to the High Court’s specialist Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC). If no agreement is reached then it is expected the case will be heard in mid-2022.

Andy Lee, from Brandsmiths, said: “We are very happy to be representing Fay in this David versus Goliath battle.”

As part of her work Fay regularly visits schools – including Gawsworth, Whirley and Ivy Bank primaries – to give workshops and introduce children to Fred.

She said: “Especially as a independent author copyright is fundamental to what I do. We put our heart and soul into our work and it is not ok for someone to come along and take it without permission.

“It’s a principle, the law is there to protect everyone, whether you are little known or a best seller.”

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