Author’s Legal Bid Over John Lewis Christmas Ad

A children’s author is challenging John Lewis & Partners over its critically acclaimed 2019 Christmas advert, Excitable Edgar.

Author Fay Evans claims the retailer’s TV commercial and associated merchandise bears a ‘striking similarity’ to her debut picture book, Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon, which she self published in September 2017.

Evans is being represented by the Manchester office of law firm Brandsmiths, which specialises in Intellectual Property, Sport, Media and Commercial Litigation for brands and entrepreneurs. Initial legal correspondence has been sent to John Lewis’ head office outlining details of the alleged copyright infringement in Excitable Edgar. The law firm’s letter requests a response from the company by 4pm on 24 December 2020.

Children’s author Fay Evans says: “This is an unprecedented ‘David and Goliath’ battle for justice, but I am totally confident in the validity of my claim and have received an overwhelming amount of public support.”

Fay Evans adds: “I want to take a stand for all creative artists – including writers, illustrators and musicians – whether they are relatively unknown or at the top of their game, the same principle applies. The original creative work we strive with all our heart to develop and publish is fundamentally protected by the law of copyright.”

Andy Lee, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property at Brandsmiths comments: “The detailed similarities between Fay’s original work and Excitable Edgar are striking, such as plot lines and scenes, which in my view go further than mere abstract similarities between two dragons. It will be interesting to see how John Lewis responds to the allegations.”

Since publishing her debut picture book in 2017, Evans has undertaken author visits to around 100 UK primary schools and sold in excess of 3,000 books, including hundreds of copies via Amazon. Evans is currently working with a composer to create a musical theatre show for young children based on her first book, with the working title: Fred – The Musical.

The online release of the John Lewis Christmas advert Excitable Edgar on 14 November 2019 immediately ignited Evans’ social media feed. Many fans of the Cheshire-based writer took to social media to point out the resemblance between Edgar, a little green dragon with a fiery affliction, and the heartwarming tale of Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon.

Evans’ 2017 book is an illustrated rhyming story about a little green dragon that causes chaos with his uncontrollable fiery emissions. The solitary dragon is scorned by the human folk around him, until he wins their admiration at the end of the story by emitting a blast of fire which cooks food to perfection.

Fay Evans says: “When I watched the advert for the first time last November, I was gobsmacked – I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing unfold before me. The visual resemblance to the main character in Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon and the narrative similarity throughout was striking.”

She adds: “As soon as the John Lewis advert was released online, I was inundated with messages from friends, followers and fans of fiery Fred. Even a two-year-old girl recognised the dragon in the John Lewis advert as Fred, the main character from her favourite book, when she watched the TV commercial with her mum.”

Shocked by the likeness, Evans posted on social media showing an illustration from her book alongside one from the Excitable Edgar picture book, published to accompany the two-and-a-half minute advert. She invited followers to ‘spot the difference’ and generated thousands of social media shares and hundreds of supportive comments.

In the run up to Christmas 2019, Evans received a series of emails from the publisher of the Excitable Edgar picture book, threatening her with legal action. The company demanded the deletion of her ‘spot the difference’ Tweet and requested she made no further comment on social media. Evans did not comply with the demands and received no correspondence from the company’s lawyers.

When contacted by the media in December 2019, a spokesperson for John Lewis commented: “There are lots and lots of stories about dragons, but Edgar is an original character developed by our creative agency, as is our story.”

Photo of Fay Evans by Tanya Lloyd Photography

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