Michael Bond, 89, author of the Paddington Bear stories
His popularity increased with the classic 1970s animated children’s TV show on the BBC, while more recently two blockbuster movies have revived public love for Paddington. And he even took tea with the Queen to celebrate her platinum jubilee.
But the marmalade-loving bear has ended up the focus of a royalties dispute, centering around a four decades’ old “gentleman’s agreement” between Mr Bond and TV producer Graham Clutterbuck.
You are reading: Row over royalties – Novelist and TV producer in Paddington dispute
Under the agreement, Mr Bond agreed to hand over 10 percent of all future worldwide Paddington merchandise royalties – after certain deductions – to Graham, with whom he had launched the 70s TV show.
But with both men now dead, his son Michael Clutterbuck has found himself locked in a row with Mr Bond’s former business Paddington and Company Ltd – the owners of the rights in Paddington – over the amount of the continuing payments.
Lawyers for Mr Clutterbuck’s company, Pixdene Ltd, say they received only £7,500 a year on average since 2016, despite Paddington’s popularity soaring.
Now, following a High Court face-off, Pixdene will be permitted to send independent auditors into Paddington and Company to inspect royalties accounts to see whether enough has been paid.
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Although no figures have been put on the potential payments at stake, Pixdene’s lawyers say they might be “substantial.”
The worldwide Paddington merchandise market was reported in 2017 to be worth £5million.
Paddington and Co Ltd however say the sums already paid are correct in line with the agreement.
Although no potential figures were mentioned for merchandising revenue in court, a report in 2017 estimated the global market in Paddington-related items to be worth around £5 million.
The row reached court last week after a disagreement between Pixeldene and Paddington & Co over the terms under which the latter’s accounts can be audited to ensure it is paying the right share of the royalties.
Although two audits had previously taken place without problem, a third which was planned in 2019 has still not occurred due to rows over how it should be carried out and by whom.
Hammering out the terms in a judgment at the High Court, Judge Melissa Clarke said: “Paddington Bear surely needs no introduction, being such a well-loved character that Her late Majesty the Queen was filmed taking tea with him during her recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations.”
The Queen was filmed with Paddington Bear
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But she said the case had generated a “surprisingly large number of issues coming out of one short and simple audit clause”.
“The reason for that is that the parties do not trust each other,” she said.
“As Mr Roberts KC put it in his oral submissions for Pixdene: ‘the milk of human kindness has long since evaporated between them’.”
She wrapped up the case by laying down strict directions about how future audits should be carried out, ruling that Pixdene is entitled to choose an independent auditor for the work and that the audit process can cover a two-year period.
But she went on to hold that audit inspections “must take place at a venue to be reasonably determined by Paddington, within Paddington’s control and within normal working hours”.
The judge’s ruling also imposed confidentiality restrictions about the information which the independent auditor can pass on to Pixdene.
At the end of the case, and with each side ordered to bear their own legal costs, one of Pixdene’s lawyers declared the result a “score-draw”.