January 2, 2014

Intellectual Property Law: Can You Copyright an Idea?

This post was written by: Aston Bond Law Firm

Millions of Brits watch TV every night, and millions will also visit the Theatre or cinema in the coming weeks. However, when tucking into our popcorn or sinking into our sofas few of us consider the individual who thought up the idea for the show or performance we are watching.

However, the idea behind a TV show, movie or theatre show may be worth millions – but it still lacks the same intellectual property protection that a book, art piece or a piece of music may have.

So, can you copyright an idea?

The answer is not simple as it is dependent on what idea you are trying to protect. For example, a TV show or film may be protected by literary protection or the broadcast of the programme may and likely will be protected by law. However, this may differ with a theatre production.

But there is one area in which all ideas lack protection – the format itself.

Over the past decade a number of high profiled shows have been outsourced to other countries. This includes The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and MasterChef. However, many more have appeared around the world with no connection to the original broadcaster or Production Company.

This is, in-fact, because TV shows, movies and other similar products lack format protection – meaning that the format of a show can be copied without any legal protection.

Moreover, while a shows format may be recognizable to its viewers it would be difficult to prove that it has been copied in court.

On the other hand, in the past evidence including catchphrases and set designs have been used to prove or disprove format stealing – highlighting the fact that some aspects of an idea can be used to prove or disprove that it has been stolen.

But one thing is for sure. Your rights can vary dramatically dependent on the idea, its overall value and its overall originality; and it is for this reason that legal consultation should always be taken.

If you believe your design, idea or creation has been illegally copied please do not hesitate to contact our specialist intellectual property solicitors by calling 01753 486 777 or emailing info@astonbond.co.uk. Our specialist intellectual property solicitors can assist with patents, trademarks, and copyright law.

Ashton Hudson, Online Marketing Executive 


Our Solicitors in Slough can be contacted by calling 01753 486 777 or emailing info@astonbond.co.uk. Alternatively, you can visit our offices at 135 High Street, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 1DN.