If you’re a child of the 1980s you’ll no doubt be familiar with the lunchtime children’s ITV series Button Moon. The short tales of Mr Spoon and friends, in his bean can/water funnel combo space ship, proved a hit with a generation of youngsters. In recent years a nostalgic resurgence of interest in the series has seen DVDs released and various merchandise. The latter however has got one entrepreneur fined over £7000 for creating unofficial goods.
Devised by writer and puppeteer Ian Allen Button Moon first came to life in 1978 as a stage production before being picked up by ITV London company Thames Television for a networked children’s slot. The 10 minute episodes aired for 91 episodes between 1980 and 1988 over seven series.
So surprising that 25 years after the show went out of production it would be part of a court drama that saw Mr Spoon, made from a bottle, with his plate hat and wooden spoon arms, back in the spotlight over his ‘personality rights’.
While Thames Television own the footage and programme rights the design, names and characters copyright remain with 63-year-old Allen, who has spun-off a merchandising rights business for the Button Moon stars.
Following Allen rejecting a business proposal by Robert Redshaw and his Kapow company in 2009 it was discovered not long after that Kapow had begun marketing T-shirts and mugs with designs similar to Button Moon and the Mr Spoon character printed on them.
Mr Allen, of Tibenham, told the press, “I was determined this man should not win. It was like someone taking your children and doing what they want to with them and making money.”
The Patents County Court were told that T-shirts and mugs bearing a ‘strikingly similar design’ to the classic characters were being sold in a Kapow Gift Shop in Bridlington and online. Trading standards were informed and following a visit in 2010 Redshaw was ordered to destroy the items.
Defending his actions Redshaw refuted the suggestion Kapow had copied the Button Moon designs, instead suggesting his merchandise was a parody of Mr Spoon and the series.
Giving judgment Recorder Amanda Michaels found Mr Redshaw had infringed the copyright ownership and was guilty of ‘passing off’.
“The rocket and cartoon man on Mr Redshaw’s T-shirt undoubtedly reproduce a substantial part, or parts, of Mr Allen’s designs shown, for example, on theatre posters for Mr Spoon on Button Moon shows,” she said.
“There is a substantial reproduction of the copyright works and no defense to such infringement. There is no doubt in my mind Mr Redshaw has infringed Mr Allen’s copyright.”
Kapow were ordered to pay Mr Allen £3,736 for the unofficial reproduction of the designs as well as covering Allen’s £3,421 legal costs.
Plans to revive Button Moon for a new television generation have also been rejected due to producers wishing to use CGI computer animation rather than puppetry.