Seven Network has failed in its bid to have rivals Nine Network take reality show The Hotplate off-air with a court today dismissing an application for an injunction against the show.
This afternoon in the Federal Court Justice Nicholas ruled Nine did not have to take the show off air ahead of a full hearing as to whether it infringes on the copyright of Seven’s flagship show My Kitchen Rules.
Seven launched the action after its own Restaurant Revolution format failed to fire in competition with The Hotplate, which has been pulling primetime audiences in excess of 900,000 a night, forcing the TV network to find new content as it moved the show to Thursday nights.
However, Seven says it intends to press ahead with a full trial in the case claiming it needs to “protect not only the MKR format itself but also the distribution rights in many overseas territories” adding: “Given the importance of the matter, Seven has asked the court to deal with the matter as an urgent hearing. “
Seven filed the court action late last week seeking an interlocutory injunction against Nine, claiming each airing of The Hotplate was diminishing the value of Seven’s cooking juggernaut My Kitchen Rules.
Dismissing the application the judge said Seven had a reasonably argued case for showing there has been an infringement of it’s copyright, but added he did not think that the case was as “particularly strong on a prima facie level” as Seven had made out.
“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.
Seven now has 48-hours in which to appeal the decision, and the judge reserved a judgement on costs.
A Nine spokesperson said: ‘We are pleased with the court’s decision today regarding The Hotplate and look forward to continuing this hit series on Nine.’
In court on Tuesday, Seven claimed that Nine has deliberately sought to imitate the format of MKR, and said staff at production company Endemol had breached its copyright by consulting a copy of the MKR production “bible” for the show.
Nine responded claiming that were the court to take The Hotplate off-air the consequences would be “dire” for the TV network and defending Endemol’s CEO Janeen Faithfull had accessed the text only to check if there was a conflict of interest.
MKR’s Fieldel and Evans
Seven’s lawyer Richard Lancaster had also told the court on Tuesday that the locations and format of the shows were very similar and the Nine had just shifted them from the contestant’s homes to a restaurant.
“The change in venue is a mere variation, which is apparent to any viewer,” said Lancaster.
“The drama is having your competitors and the judges coming to your domain for the purposes of judging you, your food and the presentation of your food,” said Lancaster.
“It is not an ordinary dinner party.”
The Hotplate’s Pickett and Parker Bowles
Many viewers, along with a number of people in the media, have commented on the similarities between Nine’s show and other reality cooking formats, as well as the similarities between Hotplate judges Scott Pickett and Tom Parker Bowles and MKR judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.
In court Nine’s counsel, Bruce McClintock, addressed this point telling the judge: “Who else can judge these programs but cooking professionals?”
The legal action comes as Seven has moved to scale back the number of episodes of Restaurant Revolution from four a week to one and as senior media buyers criticised both TV networks for lacking originality and arguing the head to head reality cooking formats fail to give consumers sufficient choice.
Nic Christensen & Kevin Bradford