John Lewis facing potential copyright dispute over Christmas advert

Retail giant John Lewis is facing potential legal action over its latest Christmas television advert, after a popular children’s author accused the retailer of copyright infringement.

John Lewis’ latest festive ad stars a friendly CGI monster named ‘Moz’ who sleeps under a child’s bed.

But Moz’s appearance has reportedly upset writer and illustrator Chris Riddell, who claims that the endearing monster is too similar in concept and appearance to a character from his children’s picture book, Mr Underbed.

Mr Riddell adds that he is not the only one who was instantly “struck by the similarity of the concept” the first time he saw the ad.

According to reports, the budding children’s author has said that “a number of people have tweeted and emailed” him to point out the resemblance.

In response to the accusations, John Lewis has said that the idea of a “big hairy monster under the bed which keeps a child from sleeping” has been a long-running theme throughout literature, TV and film for many years.

John Lewis has described the idea as “a universal tale which has been told many times over many years.”

Mr Riddell has reportedly accepted the fact that the “idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new.”

However, he still claims that the specific monster featured in John Lewis’ 2017 Christmas advert “bears a close resemblance” to his own Mr Underbed creation.

The news marks the second time that one of John Lewis’ Christmas adverts has attracted accusations in relation to intellectual property (IP) infringement.

In 2013, the retailer’s Bear and The Hare ad was accused of plagiarising ideas and images from another children’s book, known as Bear Stays up for Christmas.

On both occasions, John Lewis has denied allegations of infringement.

However, it remains yet to be seen whether Mr Riddell will pursue further action in relation to the retailer’s latest advert.

If a dispute should go further, the case may help to highlight the distinction between copyright in the form of ‘a work’ (which is available) and the absence of copyright in the form of ‘an idea’ (which is not available).

For more information on our intellectual property litigation services, please contact Seamus Smyth or Jonathan Fozard or telephone: 020 7406 1000.