How many lawyers does it take to protect your idea final
How many lawyers does it take to protect your idea?The answer to this conundrum should be “one” – a good IP lawyer. But it is worth explaining howcomplicated the process is and what you, as the person who owns that idea, can do preventatively toenhance the protection.There are three types of work that we, as IP lawyers, get asked about all the time: creative pitchconcepts/ideas, business ventures and television programme, or game show formats. Essentially, theoverriding principle of protection is the same with each issue which is that, due to the intangible natureof an idea, it is important (in the eyes of the law) to make it “exist” first in order that it can be protected.This is usually done in the form of a document recording the work or idea so that there is something tofix the copyright on.Creative pitches or conceptsBoth pitch ideas and TV formats enjoy varying degrees of protection worldwide.We all know if circumstances in which ideas originally presented as a pitch subsequently appear onthe market. The prospects of taking an action on the grounds of copyright infringement are not good.There have been some settlements, and it brings home the importance of implementing systems toprotect your concept early on in its development.To be in the strongest position either to prove that you were the originator and creator of a concept soas to prevent copying by another, or to resist any claim by someone else that the rights in your formatbelong to them, you need to be able to show how you created it. You need to be able to prove whenthe original idea began its journey to whatever stage it has reached, and then evidence all the stageswhereby it has become a fully fledged proposal.Business venturesIt is the same story with business ideas in that the idea itself is not possible to protect butrepresentation of the idea, such as a logo, a website, brand visuals, can all be protected and thereforehave greater chance of protection.Certainly, if a competitor copied your work or stole your logo or ideas from your website, you couldtake action against them as breach of copyright (assuming that you have registered the copyright – asabove.)And the practice of “passing off” – when another business uses your name or branding to poachclients from you – is another actionable offence.Television programme/game show formatsThere is no statutory protection for television formats in any country that we know of. Such case law asthere is (based on the national copyright legislation) indicates that a format will enjoy legal protection ifit is both sufficiently original and has been developed into a detailed documentary from which a courtwill then treat as a copyright work. In the case of TV formats, the ability to exploit your format is directlyproportional to your capacity to protect it.
Practical Steps for protection of your ideaPut it in writing – Put your idea in writing and develop all aspects of it as much as possible beforegiving, or showing it, to anyone.Date and Identity – Make sure that the date, author and those responsible for the ideas beingrecorded (and which idea should be attributed to who) are noted every time.Get a trade mark – Think seriously about registering the title of your idea as a trade mark. Firstlythough, you’ll need to do some checks to make sure nothing similar has already been registered. Bewarned though that you will need to register it in each of the territories in which you wish to protect itwhich could prove expensive.Register it - If there is a dispute it provides evidence of the date of the concept of the idea. You candeposit and register a copy of a TV format with an association such as FRAPA (Format Recognitionand Protection Association) (see the link www.frapa.org) with the date of receipt confirmed.Create a visual identity – These should be reduced to a detailed illustration and include as manyoriginal elements to the design (logos, websites etc) as possible to try to protect the look of the idea asan artistic work under copyright.Create a paper trail – Detailed and exact specification of the elements of the format during the entiredevelopment process should be recorded for the best possible protection.Keep it confidential – If you can, request that anyone who is to receive the format, idea or inventionsigns a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement (“NDA”) before seeing it and make it clear, at everyopportunity, that the information they are receiving is confidential and is not to be used without yourauthorisation.Meticulous record keeping – The more information about an idea that you can reduce to writtenform, the greater your chances of protecting it. So keep a creation “bible” containing as much detailand know-how as possible. Give a clear and detailed description of the idea and its constituentelements during the entire development process.Licence it under contract – Every use of your idea must be covered by a licence contract that willprovide better protection than intellectual property law alone, although this will only be bindingbetween the contracting parties, not a third party. However, more importantly, the contract will givethe buyer access to “know-how”, that is the knowledge and expertise required to produce the idea orprogramme.Early legal advice from an expert can definitely assist by improving your intellectual propertyprotection.