Only Fools and Horses

Son of Only Fools And Horses writer ‘running out of room to store merchandise’

The son of the writer who created hit sitcom Only Fools And Horses has told a judge he is running out of space to store merchandise.

Jim Sullivan, 43, son of John Sullivan, told Judge John Kimbell he did not know “what to do with it”.

Mr Sullivan was giving evidence in a High Court copyright fight with the operators of an “interactive theatrical dining experience”.

A company set up by his father, who died in 2011, has taken legal action against Only Fools the Dining Experience.

Shazam Productions alleges that the Only Fools The (cushty) Dining Experience show infringes copyright in the sitcom scripts and in “each of the central characters”, and that marketing of the show has involved “passing off”.

Lawyers representing the dining experience dispute Shazam’s claims and are fighting the case.

Judge Kimbell is considering arguments at a High Court hearing in London due to end later this week.

Mr Sullivan, a director of Shazam, said his job was to manage his father’s work and generate income for the family.

The judge was shown photographs of merchandise and told of arrangements between Shazam and the BBC.

“I am running out of space to store it,” Mr Sullivan, who was three when the sitcom was first broadcast in 1981, told the judge.

“I don’t know what to do with it.”

He also gave some insight into his father’s work, saying his aim had been to write for a live audience.

Mr Sullivan, who gave evidence by video link, said music featured in the sitcom was also important to his father and added: “He chose pretty much every song in the series.”

He said he had been involved in the creation of an Only Fools And Horses musical, and the dining experience was not “so different”.

Tom Bennett and Paul Whitehouse in a musical version of Only Fools And Horses
Tom Bennett and Paul Whitehouse in a musical version of Only Fools And Horses (Trevor Leighton/PME/PA)

“My concern always is to avoid confusion,” he told the judge. “My concern is the future.”

The judge has heard that the dining experience show is a “part-scripted, part-improvised” dramatic performance featuring central characters from the sitcom, including Del Boy, Rodney, Uncle Albert, Marlene, Cassandra, Boycie, Trigger and DCI Roy Slater.

Lawyers representing Shazam say the characters have the “distinctive character traits conceived by John Sullivan” and used their “signature phrases and ways of speaking”.

They say the judge will have to consider whether sitcom scripts and the character Del Boy are “literary” and “dramatic” works.

The operators of the dining experience show contend that their use of the characters and materials from the sitcom does not amount to material that could be protected by copyright.

They deny “passing off” on the “footing” that their show would not be seen as connected with the owners of the intellectual property in the sitcom, but as an unofficial tribute show – and question whether whether Shazam, rather than the BBC, owns goodwill attached to the name Only Fools And Horses.

Australian Alison Pollard-Mansergh, who owned the dining experience, told the judge her aim was to allow people to interact with the characters in a “new environment”.

She said she had “binge-watched” the first two series of the sitcom and added: “I really did not enjoy series one and two – and didn’t want to watch any more.”

The judge heard that she had set up a similar Fawlty Towers dining experience.

Carl Steele, a solicitor at law firm Ashfords, which represents Shazam, said outside court that the judge’s ruling could clarify copyright law.


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