Ashfords' IP disputes team wins Managing IP Award for Impact Case of the Year

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Ashfords’ IP disputes team has been declared the winner of an “Impact Case of the Year” award at the recent Managing IP Awards 2023, for their work in the case of Shazam Productions Limited v Only Fools The Dining Experience Limited and Others [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC).

The annual industry awards ceremony was held on 21 June 2023 at the Hilton London Metropole. As one of the leading events of the legal calendar, the 18th annual Managing IP Awards recognised leading IP specialist law firms and their clients from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Awards were presented to in-house teams, law firms, individuals and corporations behind the most innovative and challenging intellectual property work of the past year.

Ashfords successfully represented Shazam, the owner of the copyright in the scripts for the award winning television sitcom “Only Fools and Horses”. The legal proceedings were brought to prevent the continued performance of an unlicensed interactive dining show, called “Only Fools The (cushty) Dining Experience”, which featured characters taken from the sitcom and their catchphrases, jokes, wants, desires and backstories, but presented in the context of an interactive pub quiz which never appeared in the sitcom.

The Court in the Shazam case ruled that ‘Del Boy’, the famous fictional character in ‘Only Fools and Horses’, is a separate copyright work, independent of the scripts for the series. This was the first time that the Courts in this country have recognised that a fictional character can be an independent copyright work.

The case was also the first in this country to consider the defences of ‘fair dealing’ with a copyright work, for the purposes of ‘parody or pastiche’. Those working in the creative industries now have judicial guidance available in the judgment as to the ingredients for these previously untested defences.

Carl Steele, Partner at Ashfords and head of the legal team representing Shazam, said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised formally for what we achieved for the client and the wider industry. The Court’s decision has major implications for those who wish to use fictional characters and who, in the past, might not have sought the copyright owner’s permission to do so.”

“A big ‘thank you’ to the client, for having the trust and confidence in Ashfords and our Counsel, Jonathan Hill, to win this landmark case for them.”

Ashfords IP team is ranked Tier 1 in Legal 500 and the team consists of mix of experienced Solicitors and Chartered Trade Mark Attorneys. For more information, please contact Carl Steele, Partner and Head of our Intellectual Property team.

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