Formats

FRAPA to update legal guide on format rights in 2017

The Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) has commissioned a new report on format rights under international law. The FRAPA Legal Report 2017 is being produced in partnership with London-based office ...
November 23, 2016

The Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) has commissioned a new report on format rights under international law.

The FRAPA Legal Report 2017 is being produced in partnership with London-based office of law firm Baker & McKenzie, and will mark the industry group’s first comprehensive report on formats, intellectual property and the law in five years.

The previous report in 2011 examined more than 40 reported judgments regarding infringement, trademark and breach-of-contract cases in 14 territories. Due for publication in April, the 2017 edition will cover upwards of 20 territories.

The update was necessary given many more countries – such has Israel and South Korea – have become creative hotbeds for TV formats that travel globally.

“As we’ve seen so many more territories starting to export, develop and create formats we’ve also seen an increase in claimed infringement cases from such territories,” Jan Salling (pictured), FRAPA co-chair and CEO of Denmark-based Missing Link Media, tells realscreen.

Since its founding in 2000, FRAPA has provided professional expertise to nearly 50 format disputes, but the definition of what constitutes a TV format still remains a “grey zone” in the eyes of the law.

The new report will identify key components of a TV format and list ways they can be protected, as well as draw on case studies to provide format creators with a practical, user-friendly guide to legal options in areas such as copyright, unfair competition, passing off, breach of confidence and trademark.

“I don’t believe there’s been a single verdict anywhere in the world yet that lays out what is a format, what is a format characterized by and how should it be described,” says Salling, adding that TV format is akin to a bundle of proprietary rights protectable under a variety of laws. “There have been some close-to descriptions of such, but most have focused on trademarks, unfair competition or breach of confidence.”

With more companies creating formats, FRAPA has seen an escalation in disputes over recent years, although many cases are resolved privately. FRAPA does not have statistics on the number of cases that make it to court, but Salling estimates that 80 to 90% of cases end in settlements.

A recent high-profile example is a dispute between FremantleMedia-owned Israeli prodco Abot Hameiri and Banijay Group that spilled into the media just before sales market MIPCOM in October.

On Nov. 7, Abot Hamieri filed a claim in British court accusing Banijay of ripping off its Are You Smarter Than The Crowd? for the interactive game show, All Against 1, and is seeking £40,000 for breach of confidence and copyright infringement. Banijay has strongly denied the allegations.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.

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