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Trademark Lawyers Australia – Federal Court – Hotplate

the hotplate court case

Seven Network (Operations) Limited v Endemol Australia Pty Limited [2015] FCA 800 (6 August 2015)

The Seven Network failed in its attempt to restrain the broadcast by the Nine Network of the reality television cooking program called The Hotplate first broadcast on 28 July 2015. Nicholas J declined to grant an interlocutory injunction and the matter will need to go to trial if Seven wants to pursue its allegations of copyright infringement.

Seven alleged infringement of the copyright in the literary and dramatic works of its competing program called My Kitchen Rules (MKR) which had been broadcast since 2010. It alleged Nine’s Hotplate program (1) reproduced key elements or a combination of key elements sufficient to constitute a substantial part of one or more of the MKR literary works and (2) substantially reproduced the combination and series of incidents, plots, images and sounds embodied in its MKR dramatic works.

Nine argued that Seven’s MKR program, while being successful, is an unimaginative collection of unoriginal ideas and situations found in earlier reality television cooking programs.

There was one obvious difference in the format of the respective programs, namely that MKR contestants are amateur chefs who prepare and serve meals in their own homes, whereas Hotplate contestants are professional restaurateurs who prepare and serve meals in their own restaurants as a private dining experience.

Nicholas J was satisfied that Seven has a reasonably arguable case, but not a strong prima facie case, that the formats of MKR and Hotplate are very similar and that this close similarity is, at least to some extent, the result of copying.

However, on the balance of convenience/risk of doing an injustice issue, his Honour found in Nine’s favour. In particular, the losses suffered by Nine, if an injunction was granted, would be particularly difficult to quantify if it was ordered to cease broadcasting further episodes of a television series that it has already commenced to broadcast in prime-time viewing slots.

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