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May 22, 2002

UK: Artist sues McDonald’s for cartoon copyright infringement

Designer and cartoonist Donald Evans is suing McDonald’s for breach of copyright, alleging that his redesigns of the firm’s promotional characters have been used without his permission. Evans undertook freelance work for the UK arm of the fastfood behemoth, McDonald's Restaurants Ltd, between 1986 and 2000. During this time, he says, he “developed and redrew” the Ronald McDonald and Hamburglar characters, as well as creating new figures.

Designer and cartoonist Donald Evans is suing McDonald’s for breach of copyright, alleging that his redesigns of the firm’s promotional characters have been used without his permission.

Evans undertook freelance work for the UK arm of the fastfood behemoth, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, between 1986 and 2000. During this time, he says, he “developed and redrew” the Ronald McDonald and Hamburglar characters, as well as creating new figures.

His designs were used on murals, wallpaper, decorated roller blinds and special tables, as agreed. However, Evans did not agree, according to a writ he filed last week at London’s High Court, to the inclusion of his drawings in a compendium of McDonald’s cartoon characters in the US. The writ alleges that the company also went on to authorise further reproductions of his drawings at UK restaurants without his permission and without paying him.

Law firm Allen & Overy is representing Evans, and intellectual property partner Robert Barry issued a statement on Monday which read: “This is a very interesting case as it concerns ownership in images of characters which have become worldwide corporate icons of McDonald’s.”

The writ is so far seeking unspecified damages, but Evans will attempt to fully determine how much money he believes McDonald’s owes him during the course of the case, which should be heard in court in a few months.

McDonald’s vowed to fight the claim earlier this week, however media relations manager Amanda Pierce said: “The matter is subject to court proceedings and we are not able to discuss it further at this stage.”

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