How to protect your tv format idea?

Protecting your idea for a new TV show Format can be a very difficult thing to do and there is no 100% foolproof method to ensure that you idea cannot be stolen, copied or adapted by another producer. Whilst this may sound like depressing news there are several ways that you can take steps to protect your idea as much as possible so as to leave yourself in a strong position should you need to take legal action over somebody else taking your idea. If a producer follows some or all of the steps below it will greatly reduce the possibility of someone stealing their TV show format idea and will leave them feeling assured that they have done all that they can to protect their Intellectual Property (IP).
  1. Make the show.

If you can actually produce the TV show which your idea forms the basis of then that is a sure fire way of showcasing that this was your idea first and the concept originated with you. This can be the production of a full blown series, a pilot episode or even a short teaser. Anything that you produce shows that the name, look, concept and format of the programme belongs to you and the more comprehensive the production is the more you will be protected. Whilst another producer might steal your idea when it is at pitch or short paper proposal stage they are very unlikely to copy a show that has already been produced.
  1. Register your idea with FRAPA or a similar agency.

If you can put your idea on paper with as much detail as possible, this can then be filed with an organisation such as FRAPA (Format Recognition and Protection Agency). Whilst this may incur a modest fee it is a thoroughly efficient and professional way to protect your format and could save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run. FRAPA is an internationally recognised body and one of the most notable providers of a service such as this but other options are also available. When filing a document be sure to break your format down into minute detail so that every aspect of it is recognised. This can include drawings, logos, set designs as well as a comprehensive written treatment.
  1. Copyright the name of your show.

This can be a useful way to further protect your show and adds another layer of security to your idea. It is worth noting that this method only protects the name of the programme itself and doesn’t register the actual contents or nature of the show. It does publicly showcase however that you are a professional and aware producer who recognises the value in your idea and shows that you are willing to take steps to protect your idea. This overall approach is a surefire way to show all producers that you are aware of your rights and are committed to protecting your TV Format idea.
The above steps will go a long way to protect your new ideas and TV show formats. When your format is being looked at by sales and distribution agencies it is always good to show that you have protected your IP from the beginning and that you are the real and rightful owner. You will need to pitch your idea to broadcasters, funders and distributors and there can never be certainty that your idea won’t fall into the wrong hands at some point when you pitch to strangers. Whilst IP theft is always a real and present thread, following the above steps will help you greatly protect yourself and keep ownership over what is rightfully yours.