There may not be such a thing as a TV Show Format Right, but that isn't stopping the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) stepping in to help sort out disputes over programme formats. This is actually WIPO's second venture into dispute resolutions that may, but do not necessarily, embrace IP rights -- the first being that body's excellent and often highly effective service relating to disputes over domain names. Anyway, according to WIPO's press release today (PR/2010/636):
"WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center) and the Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) are to join forces later this month in providing alternative dispute resolution services to address problems of format plagiarism or the unauthorized copying of television (TV) formats, such as those used for game, reality or talent shows and sitcoms. Programs using these formats are often remade in different markets using local parties.The IPKat remains unconvinced that programme formats need or deserve any greater protection than that offered by existing rights such as trade marks and copyright, since it seems to him that format protection comes closer to capturing an idea rather than its means of expression than do the existing rights -- but that does not stop him welcoming the new collaboration: anything that enables parties which are at loggerheads with one another to reach a successful conclusion to their disputes makes sound commercial sense and should please investors, programme producers and viewers alike. Merpel says, I wonder whether the dispute-resolution format will itself become the subject of a format rights ...
While the format industry is flourishing and the trade in TV formats is growing, the industry is characterized by fierce competition and frequent disputes. These disputes often relate to the unauthorized use of formats owned by third parties and can be difficult to resolve in court because of differences in relevant national laws in this area.
Under the new collaboration, the WIPO Center will take on FRAPA’s existing mediation activity and will administer TV format-related disputes filed under the WIPO Mediation and Expedited Arbitration Rules for Film and Media.
Launched in December 2009, these Rules are tailored to the specific characteristics of disputes arising in the film and media sectors. They foresee appointment of a specialist from a dedicated international WIPO Panel of film and media mediators, arbitrators and experts. The WIPO Center and FRAPA also envisage providing specialized training and information sessions on format dispute resolution.
[Expression of usual sentiments on the part of FRAPA and WIPO]
FRAPA is the international format industry association dedicated to the protection of formats. FRAPA aims to ensure that television formats are respected by the industry and protected by law as intellectual property [The Kat is not aware of WIPO's Members having taken a position on TV formats being a subject that should be protected by IP. Has he missed something?].
The WIPO Center is a leading international provider of a range of procedural alternatives to court litigation. Alternative dispute resolution services, such as mediation and arbitration, are designed to save parties involved in commercial disputes both time and money.
The WIPO-FRAPA collaboration will be officially launched at FRAPA’s 10th anniversary event on April 11, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at Plage le Goéland in Cannes, France".