Good news for reality cooking fans with the Federal Court today granting permission for the Nine Network to continue broadcasting The Hot Plate.
The Seven Network had seeked an injunction to force the program off-air claiming the show was to-close in format to its hit series MKR, however Justice Nicholas turned down the application today.
All is not lost for Seven with the network expected to take the matter to a full trial to protect its copyright and trademarks of MKR.
Justice Nicholas comments today indicated he did believe Seven had “a reasonably argued case for showing there has been an infringement of it’s copyright”
“I do think it’s a case where if Seven wishes to proceed in this way there should be an early trial hearing…to ensure the matter is brought to a conclusion long before there is a second season of The Hotplate broadcast,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Seven Network released the following statement after todays ruling.
We will continue seek to protect our business and the content we create.
His Honour today found that Seven has an arguable case that the close similarity of the formats is the result of copying and that there is a reasonable basis for Seven to argue that, directly or indirectly, the team responsible for developing the Hotplate format has copied the format, or a large part of the format, used in MKR.
Seven will continue its case against the Nine program which it asserts is a straight rip-off of My Kitchen Rules.
The defendants, when the matters proceed to full hearing, includes the Endemol Group, the distributor of MKR program, as well as Nine. Seven needs to protect not only the Australian version of My Kitchen Rules but also the distribution rights in many overseas territories. Given the importance of the matter, Seven has asked the court to deal with the matter as an urgent hearing.
My Kitchen Rules is the number one show in Australia. It is also broadcast in in 162 countries. There are local versions of MKR being produced under licence in seven international markets very successfully, including Canada, Lithuania, UK, Serbia, New Zealand, Belgium and Denmark.
A spokesperson for the Nine Network welcomed the decision telling this website “We are pleased with the court’s decision today regarding The Hotplate and look forward to continuing this hit series on Nine.” After a soft start, The Hot Plate is now rating well for Nine, consistently the highest rating non-news program in Australia.
On Monday, Seven’s lawyer Richard Lancaster SC told the Federal court that Endemol obtained a copy of the MKR production 'Bible' before producing The Hot Plate. The ‘Bible’ was described as “a highly confidential document used to create and develop the show and its format, on a scene by scene basis.”
Lancaster told the court both programs used the same technique to create dramatic tension. "The contestants or judges come to your domain and judge you, your food and the presentation of your food," he said. "(It's) not just because the cheesecake didn't work ... it's two people in a joint enterprise in a pressure environment that does or doesn't work out".
Endemol has a foot in both camps in this case, As well as being the production company for The Hot Plate; it also negotiates international distribution for Seven’s MKR.
Nine’s lawyer Bruce McClintock SC told the court that “We have no access to the material of this program and we have no access to their ‘bible’.” However the lawyer was later forced to admit Endemol’s CEO Janeen Faithfull had accessed the document to “check if there was a conflict of interest” with Endemol’s involvement in both reality cooking
This is an important case for the Seven Network and not just because its wants to score some cheap points against rival Nine. As profits from Free to Air Television have declined in recent years, Seven has branched out producing and selling content for other broadcasters. Locally Seven Productions is producing ‘A Place To Call Home’ exclusively for Foxtel, Internationally Seven has two production companies 7Wonder in the UK, and 7Beyond in the USA.
The Australian version of My Kitchen Rules has been broadcast in numerous countries around the world, more importantly Seven has sold the format to production companies in England, USA, New Zealand, Russia and Serbia whom have produced their own versions of the show.
Nine’s The Hot Plate is seen as a direct threat to this international success. If Endemol can successfully clone MKR in this country then there will be nothing stopping them from doing so in other markets. My Kitchen Rules has become an extremely profitable format for Seven and its understandable why the network would seek to protect its trademark.
Nine was clearly nervous in the lead-up to the premiere of The Hot Plate. TV reviewers including from this website were restricted from viewing review content online. The only people allowed to view the program were those that visited Nine’s premises.