A Bridlington businessman has said he will appeal a decision to award damages to the creator of children’s TV show Button Moon after a court ruled that mugs and t-shirts he sold infringed on copyright.
Rob Redshaw, who runs Kapow gifts on Queen Street, was told to pay Ian Allen £3,736 for copyright infringement and passing off and Mr Allen’s £3,421 legal costs.
Speaking to the Free Press, Mr Allen spoke of his “ordeal” in bringing the case to court, and said that seeing his creation represented on the merchandise was “like someone taking your children and doing what they want to with them, and making money from it.”
However Mr Redshaw said that while he has to accept the court’s decision, he will appeal as the items he produced in 2008 were a “parody” of a government recycling campaign which featured similar imagery to the Button Moon creations, but included a disclaimer that it was not officially licensed.
He said: “It was basically a parody rather like you have a caricature of a famous celebrity or an ‘unauthorized biography of a celebrity’.
“It’s an interesting decision because surely it would mean in future people can no longer create and use imagery of copyrighted objects like a Ferrari or a famous building like the Gherkin without the threat of legal action.”
Mr Redshaw also disputed the level of award and legal costs, saying it was disproportionate to the amount he produced and sold, and that he had hoped to settle the matter sooner and avoid wasting court time - but that Mr Allen ‘wanted his day in court’.
“I can only think another reason Mr Allen wanted to take this to court was to heighten the profile of the show and gain some sort of publicity,” continued Mr Redshaw. The Patents County Court heard that Mr Redshaw had previously gone to him asking for a licence to create and sell Button Moon t-shirts, which was refused.
Mr Allen later discovered items on sale on eBay and Amazon, and East Riding of Yorkshire trading standards officers visited Kapow Gifts in September 2010 and found some items on sale.
Giving judgement at The Patents County Court in London, Recorder Amanda Michaels said: “The rocket and the cartoon man on Mr Redshaw’s t-shirt undoubtedly reproduce a substantial part, or parts, of Mr Allen’s designs as shown, for example, on theatre posters for ‘Mr Spoon on Button Moon’ shows. The moon is also well-nigh identical to at least one form of the moon used by Mr Allen.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Redshaw has infringed Mr Allen’s copyright.
“In my view, even though Mr Redshaw’s goods do not bear the Button Moon name, and bear the disclaimers described above, they so closely copy the Button Moon characters’ designs as to make a misrepresentation that the goods are licensed or official products.”
Mr Allen, 63, who lives in Tibbenham in Norfolk, said after the judgement: “I feel vindicated. People grew up with Button Moon characters, they were like a babysitter to a generation, and I feel desperately sorry for fans who I think have been ripped off with poor quality fakes.
“I had another deal with a company called Truffle Shuffle, and out of my 12% commission, 2% goes to the Dyslexia Association. I am Dyslexic myself and I am desperately upset that they may have missed out on donations.
“I have tried to settle this for years, but after my attempts failed I wanted to question him in court and have my say. You only take if you cannot create.”
Button Moon was a quirky, popular children’s television programme which ran for eight series in the 1980s on ITV.
Mr Allen, who now teaches puppeteering, said he had received offers to make more Button Moon programmes, but they would have been more computer-based and had not gone ahead.
Kapow Gifts on Queen Street is currently closed for refurbishment but should open again next week.