Theft of Ideas

It seems like every week entertainment news papers feature a story about someone suing the producers of a television show or movie for stealing their idea. Protecting ideas that are not fixed in any form is difficult, as copyright law does not protect mere ideas. However, the law provides some protection to those who submit ideas to others as well as for those who receive idea submissions.

The authors original expression of an idea is protected but not the idea itself. Because of this, many of these claims must forgo copyrighted infringement accusations and instead rely on breach of contract and breach of confidence. Litigating and defending theft of idea claims requires thorough knowledge in this area of the law as well as familiarity with how the entertainment industry works. Contact us now and tell us your story!

If two works are similar enough, one could pursue a copyright infringement claim. However, the works must be found to be “substantially similar.” Generally this means that an average lay observer would recognize the alleged copy as having been appropriated from the copyrighted work. However, it’s important to remember that “scenes a faire” are not afforded protection either. These are characters, settings or events which necessarily follow certain themes or plot situations.

A Brief Note on idea-submission Actions

If you have submitted an idea and that idea has been stolen and used, or if you have been accused of stealing a submitted idea, you could be looking at complex litigation. Except in California, which has slightly less stringent requirements, idea submission actions require that the idea be at a minimum novel in order for there to be found to be an implied contract. Moreover, there must be a confidential relationship between the submitter and the recipient.

If you plan receive idea submissions, it’s imperative that you have those submitting ideas sign a broad material submission release. We can draft this for you so you are protected!

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                 Ann Arbor MI, 48104
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