7 August 2014 7 min read

What is it about a baking competition led by a 79 year old woman in fantastic printed jackets and a slightly over tanned Northern baker that has the nation on the edge of their seats shouting about ‘soggy bottoms’? In the past 4 years, the Great British Bake Off has soared in popularity. Not only has it made fantastic viewing, taken over social media every Wednesday night and created a lot of BuzzFeed articles – it’s also become a fantastic business model with international scope.

In 2013, the business arm of the BBC licensed the GBBO format to Australia, Poland, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland and Ukraine. With this international scope, you would think this is a great cash in opportunity for the BBC – yet the issue here lies with it’s creators, the independent production company Love Productions, and their rights to the show that leave the BBC with little claim to anything GBBO related.

Not only have Love Productions stormed their way through with their success in turning a programme about baking cakes in a tent with a lot of floral table cloths into a nationwide phenomenon, but they have successfully protected their intellectual property rights ensuring that it’s themselves, rather than the BBC, who get to eat their cake and have it too.

Creations, not ideas

When looking at these IP rights held by Love Productions, it’s pretty impressive when we see that, as a common law rule, UK Copyright Law does not directly protect TV formats.

As established in 1989 by a case involving the copying in New Zealand of ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and their famous ‘clapometer’, TV formats have not been protected, as in this case the content was too typical of the general content of game shows. Whilst this ruling proved fairly controversial, it underlined the fundamental point that it’s not about who ‘got there first’, as ideas are free for all in Intellectual Property.

IP Package – signed, sealed and delivered.

So how is it that Love Productions have maintained the IP rights to the elements we all know and love…the innuendos, Star Baker, the Mary Berry recipes that she makes look so easy but we can never quite get it… (we could go on for a while)

Under Intellectual Property law, you can protect certain elements of a show in their separate entities, such as graphics, scripts, music, and catchphrases, creating an ‘IP Package’ that’s set to protect your creations and make sure they’re as lucrative as possible. Therefore in 2010, Love Productions did just this – they registered the name GBBO as a trademark for hand tool products, houseware, processed foods, communications services, restaurant and hotel services, and again in 2011 for computer, electrical and scientific products, paper goods and printed material.

Sorry Beeb…

As a backdrop to this issue, it’s important to know why the little guy is (deservedly) getting all the credit.

In 2003 an agreement was made between the trade organisation PACT and the BBC, to give it up for these small companies to make sure they were recognised, whereby indie producers retained the IP rights to their creations.

Whilst growth for SME’s is always encouraged, it’s pretty understandable that the BBC want a slice of this lucrative IP action as this independent sector has now grown into a £3bn business. Moreover, in a recent lecture the BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall said “Any new system must obtain value for money for the licence fee payer. When the BBC owns the rights to programmes we can return the full commercial value of them to the UK licence fee payer, to invest in new programmes.”

Get protected

Therefore outlines the importance of IP protection – whilst the BBC may be the main media outlet with which GBBO is associated, it’s the SME’s that are laughing – and whilst we love it that small businesses are growing, it could all too easily be the other way round if you don’t make sure your creations are properly protected! Whether its baking cakes, or celebrity sledging, and your idea is taking off, make sure you can protect different elements such as your graphics, music, scripts and visuals images as IP products.

Firstly – register them – make it official!

Secondly, define your relationships – creating a TV format and all its components is often a team effort and you need proper legal advice to draw up contracts so that your rights and responsibilities are understood from the outset.

Thirdly – don’t go blabbing! Ensure who ever you pitch to knows that you are the owner of your creation. The best way to go about this is to seek legal advice to draw up confidentiality agreements.

Why not contact us today to book your free consultation to discuss your legal requirements in further detail – we’ll be delighted to talk to you.

The contents of this article are intended solely for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or financial advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.

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Ryan Lisk

Ryan has helped a vast number of businesses protect and control their intellectual property as well as drafting and advising on consumer and commercial contracts.

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