Excitable Edgar reignites plagiarism row for John Lewis

John Lewis is facing another intellectual property claim against one of its Christmas campaigns – a claim that the retailer tells The Drum it will be “robustly defending“.

Children’s author Fay Evans has taken legal action in the High Court’s Intellectual Property Enterprise Court against John Lewis and its creative agency Adam&EveDDB for its 2019 Christmas ad featuring the sneezing dragon Excitable Edgar.

The legal bid comes as the retailer battles plagiarism claims for a cover of Electric Dreams featured in its 2021 festive campaign – a claim from 80s band The Portraits that John Lewis has also denied.

According to Evans, Edgar bears a “striking resemblance” to Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon, the title character of her 2017 illustrated rhyming book about a green dragon who causes chaos with his uncontrollable fire sneezes.

Evans says that “within 10 minutes“ of the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert being released online, she was “inundated with messages regarding the resemblance“ to her book. “I am totally confident in the validity of my claim and have received an overwhelming amount of public support.”

Evans’s legal representation, Andy Lee of law firm Brandsmiths, referred to the case as a “David versus Goliath battle”.

A John Lewis spokesperson says the company was “surprised“ to have received the claim, having provided Evans with time-stamped documents that show the concept for the campaign was first presented in early 2016, “one year and seven months before her book was published“.

“We strongly deny that we have copied or drawn any inspiration from the book,“ continues the spokesperson, while a 2019 statement from the company read: ”There are lots and lots of stories about dragons, but Edgar is an original character developed by our creative agency, as is our story.”

The latest legal battle is among a string of plagiarism claims levied at John Lewis for its Christmas ads. Author Chris Riddell accused John Lewis of ”helping itself” to his 1986 story Under the Bed, pointing out similarities in the retailer’s 2017 Christmas ad.

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.”

John Lewis has 14 days to either acknowledge the claim or serve a defense.