John Lewis wins court battle over Edgar the dragon’s Christmas advert

John Lewis has won a court battle with an author who claimed the retailer had copied one of her designs in an advert.

The department store’s Christmas advert in 2019 featured a fire-breathing but friendly green dragon named Edgar.

Fay Evans, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, claimed Edgar bore a “striking” resemblance to her character, Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon.

But a High Court judge ruled on Monday there was no evidence the team behind the advert had been aware of her work.

The commercial first aired in November 2019, after which Ms Evans suggested on social media that it had been copied from her own story.

A self-published children’s author, she sued John Lewis as well as Adam & Eve DDB, the creative agency behind the ad.

At a hearing in January, John Lewis and the agency disputed the claim, arguing there were “numerous and substantial differences” between Ms Evans’ book and the advert.

The retail chain said nobody involved in making the advert or a spin-off book, titled Excitable Edgar, had been aware of Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon.

Author Fay Evans outside The Rolls Building in London in January 2023. Ms Evans who claimed John Lewis had infringed her copyright in its Christmas advert about an excitable dragon has lost her High Court caseIMAGE SOURCE,JORDAN PETTITT
Image caption,

Author Fay Evans, pictured in January 2023, said Edgar was similar to her character Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon

The two companies also argued that the ad was based on a concept that was first pitched to John Lewis in 2016 before being chosen in 2019. Ms Evans’ illustrated book was published in 2017.

Both stories involve friendly dragons who struggle to fit in due to their fire-breathing abilities.

In the John Lewis advert, Excitable Edgar is seen accidentally melting a child’s snowman, setting fire to Christmas decorations, and burning through an ice rink, creating a hole.

In Ms Evans’ story, Fred struggles to control his fire-breathing at school, but is later encouraged to use his power to cook meals for fellow pupils.

Lawyers for Ms Evans accepted the advert was drawn up a year before her book was published, but argued that other elements not featured in the 2016 outline had breached her copyright regardless.

The new Christmas advert and character for the John Lewis Christmas campaign, Excitable Edgar in the window displays at the Oxford Street flagship storeIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

John Lewis’s window displays featured Excitable Edgar in the run-up to Christmas 2019

However, Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke said there “was not a scrap of evidence” John Lewis or the agency had seen Ms Evans’ story before the legal battle started.

While the judge accepted both stories focused on “a friendly dragon which finds it difficult to control its fire”, she ruled these are “entirely commonplace features, almost ubiquitous in depictions of dragons”.

“There can be no copying if the work alleged to have been copied has not been accessed (i.e. seen, in this case) by those said to have copied it,” Judge Clarke said.

“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that… there can have been no copying.”

Judge Clarke ordered Ms Evans to publish the outcome on her website, which the writer had previously used to publicise the row.

Still from the John Lewis Christmas advert in 2019IMAGE SOURCE,JOHN LEWIS
Image caption,

Excitable Edgar prompted a spin-off book and soft toys. which were sold in John Lewis stores

A spokesman for John Lewis and Adam & Eve DDB said: “We take great pride and care in our Christmas advert and are glad that the judge recognised the originality of Excitable Edgar.

“We are pleased that the matter is now resolved after the court found there was no copyright infringement.”

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