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High court rules John Lewis and Adam&EveDDB did not plagiarize ‘Excitable Edgar’

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

April 3, 2023 | 3 min read

The copyright case brought against the retailer and its agency has ended, bringing to a close more than three years of legal wrangling.

Edgar the dragon in the snow

John Lewis and Adam&Eve won their high court defence against accusations of copyright infringement / John Lewis

A years-long copyright case brought against department store retailer John Lewis and its creative agency Adam&EveDDB by a children’s picture book author has been resolved after a high court judge found in favor of the companies.

Author Fay Evans had alleged that Adam&Eve’s 2019 Christmas ad campaign for John Lewis plagiarized her book Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon. Both included a diminutive dragon on a seasonal quest to find community.

But Adam&EveDDB’s creatives countered that their work on ‘Excitable Edgar’ dated back to late 2016, ruling out the possibility they had been influenced by Evans’s book, which was published in 2017.

The case was the highest-profile advertising lawsuit in years and could have caused a serious headache for both businesses.

But speaking at the high court this morning (April 3), judge Melissa Clarke sided with the co-defendants and criticized Evans for running a ”media campaign” that risked ”tarnishing” the reputations of both companies, the Law Society Gazette reported. Judge Clarke also ordered that Evans publicize the judgment online – an unusual step in British copyright law.

She said: “[I understand] how they feel that their reputations… have been tarnished by the claimant’s allegations. Because of those concerns, and because the claimant for the last three years and more has carried on a media campaign publicizing her allegations of copyright infringement, which have been unsuccessful in this court, I will make a declaration of non-infringement and an order requiring the claimant to publicize this judgment on her website.”

In a joint statement released by John Lewis and Adam&Eve, the co-defendants said: “We take great pride and care with our Christmas adverts and we’re glad the judge recognizes the originality of ’Excitable Edgar’. We’re pleased that the matter is now resolved after the court found that there was no copyright infringement.“

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