Full case report

Celador Productions Ltd v Melville

Reference [2004] EWHC 2362 (Ch)
Court Chancery Division

Judge Sir Andrew Morritt V-C

Date of Judgment 21 Oct 2004


Summary

Copyright – Confidential information – Television programme format – Summary judgment – Real prospect of success – Abuse of process – Compelling reason for trial


Facts

The TV programme “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” is produced by Celador Productions Ltd (‘Celador’). Three individuals claim that the creation of the format and the broadcasting of the programme is an infringement of copyright owned by them in proposals for game shows and a misuse of confidential information. Celador applied for summary judgment in relation to each claim.


Issue

Whether Celador should be granted summary judgment in relation to the three individuals’ claims.


Held

Celador obtained summary judgment in one of the three claims. Each case raised different issues. The first turned on a factual issue which could not be resolved on a summary judgment application and so fell to be tried. The second claim was an abuse of process, depended upon challenges to the authenticity of documents which had no real prospect of succeeding, and rested on allegations of similarities in style and technique which could not ground a cause of action in copyright or confidence. In the third case, the claimant’s case on copying had a real prospect of success and so was ordered to proceed to trial.


Comment

Establishing intellectual property rights in something as abstract as the format for a television programme is always difficult. The two cases allowed to go forward here effectively turn on allegations of copying, which in turn depend on factual issues of whether and when documents were received by those who then went on to make the programme. As such, and given that a summary judgment application should not be a mini-trial, Celador faced high hurdles in its attempt to obtain summary judgment, and it is not surprising that it failed to surmount them.


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Instructing Solicitors

Goodman Derrick for Celador Productions Ltd; Orchard for the first individual


Links

Show writers get challenge go-ahead - Yahoo
Writers win legal hurdle to sue Millionaire - The Guardian