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‘Button Moon’ Creator Triumphs in Copyright Dispute

The creator of the classic 1980s children’s programme, Button Moon, has triumphed in breach of copyright and passing off claims against a businessman who sold a range of t-shirts and mugs bearing strikingly similar designs. The Patents County Court granted artist, writer and puppeteer, Ian Allen, an injunction and awarded him damages as well as his legal costs.

Mr Allen devised the ‘Mr Spoon on Button Moon’ stage show in 1978 and a still popular television spin-off, aimed at pre-school children, ran for 91 episodes. He owns the copyright in his original designs and still makes money granting rights to manufacturers to produce and sell Button Moon-related merchandise.

He sued businessman, Robert Redshaw, after discovering that he was selling t-shirts and mugs via eBay and Amazon bearing designs similar to Button Moon and the Mr Spoon character. Mr Allen argued that Mr Redshaw had passed off his goods as authorised merchandise and infringed his copyright.

Mr Redshaw denied that he had copied Mr Allen’s designs, claiming that he had intended to create a parody of Button Moon and Mr Spoon. He said that he had taken care not to use the name Button Moon on his merchandise and that the items included a disclaimer, stating that they were not official products.

However, ordering him to pay £3,736 damages, the court ruled that the offending products substantially reproduced Mr Allen’s copyright works and that Mr Redshaw had no defence to the claim. The rocket and cartoon man device on Mr Redshaw’s t-shirts were very similar to Mr Allen’s originals and the image of the moon was ‘well-nigh identical’.

The court concluded: “Even though Mr Redshaw’s goods do not bear the Button Moon name and bear disclaimers, they so closely copy the Button Moon characters’ designs as to make a misrepresentation that the goods are licensed or official products.”  Mr Redshaw was also ordered to pay Mr Allen’s £3,421 legal costs.