The author of a self-published children’s book about a dragon that causes havoc with its fiery sneezes is suing John Lewis over its 2019 Christmas ad about a trouble-making dragon, Excitable Edgar.
Fay Evans alleges in her copyright infringement claim that there is a “striking similarity” between her picture book, Fred the Fire-Sneezing Dragon, which she published herself in September 2017, and John Lewis’s two-year-old ad. John Lewis “strongly” denies the allegations, saying that the concept was first presented to it in early 2016, and it has documentation to prove this.
Evans’s book is a rhyming story about a small green dragon whose fiery sneezes cause chaos and resentment, until he wins the affection of the humans in the story by cooking their food with his flames. In the John Lewis ad, Edgar the dragon annoys the people in the town where he lives by melting a snowman and burning down their Christmas tree, until he pleases them by lighting their Christmas pudding.
“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. The visual resemblance to the main character in Fred the Fire-Sneezing Dragon and the narrative similarity throughout was striking,” Evans said. “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. I am totally confident in the validity of my claim and have received an overwhelming amount of public support.”
John Lewis said in a statement: “Having provided Ms Evans with the time-stamped documents that show the concept for our Christmas campaign was first presented to us in early 2016 – one year and seven months before her book was published – we are surprised to have received this claim. We strongly deny that we have copied or drawn any inspiration from the book, and will be robustly defending the claim.”
Evans, who is represented by Brandsmiths, has served her claim on John Lewis plc and its advertising agency DDB UK. Brandsmiths head of intellectual property Andy Lee said he was “very happy to be representing Fay in this David versus Goliath battle”.
John Lewis is also under fire over this year’s Christmas ad. Alt-folk husband and wife duo the Portraits have alleged that the retailer lifted their arrangement to Philip Oakey and Georgio Moroder’s 1985 electro-pop classic Together in Electric Dreams for its new advert Unexpected Guest. John Lewis has said there is “no substance to the claims”.
Previously, the former children’s laureate Chris Riddell suggested that John Lewis had “help[ed] themselves to my picture book” Mr Underbed in their 2017 Christmas ad. A spokesperson said at the time that “the story of a big hairy monster under the bed which keeps a child from sleeping is a universal tale which has been told many times over many years”, and that “the main thrust of our story is utterly different to Chris Riddell’s”.