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How not to get your idea for an event stolen? Basic principles for the protection of concepts.

Although it might seem the idea itself is not enough to be able to take legal action to protect it, in fact, sometimes it is possible. All you need is the right tools. And of course, knowledge how and when to properly use them.

Everything starts with an idea. From the idea that evolves into a more advanced concept, takes on an ever more concrete shape, and as the realized event attracts hundreds, or even thousands of people, until the moment when it becomes a brand in itself, a cyclical event. Admired or hated, but steady, in a significant manner, and bringing the organizers profits – whether financial, or branding ones. So it was with great sporting events – once someone came up with the Super Bowl, someone else – with the modern Olympic Games. This was also the case with musical events such as Eurovision or Opener. The same mechanism applies to fashion events (i.e. fashion week) organized nowadays in many countries and cities around the world, industry conferences, etc.

Since everything starts from an idea, the greater frustration and disbelief in the MICE industry, or more broadly legal marketing and creative -– causes the simple conclusion that the contents and ideas themselves do not benefit from the protection under copyright (article 1, paragraph 21 of the Law on Copyright and Related Rights). This assumption, however, seems to be quite reasonable. And though our legislature is recently rarely a rational one, in this case we have to agree with the legislature. It is enough to just provide some simple examples. Probably no one would not want a creator of an idea of ​​public performance and singing could have a monopoly on concerts, joint running – for marathons, or the Lumière brothers have exclusive cinema network.

However, you have to remember about the potential value of an idea, or – more broadly – the concept of an event. And here it turns out there are tools that can help developers of ingenious concepts.

First of all – confidentiality

As you know, nothing protects an idea better than keeping it strictly confidential. But it is hard to carry out an event and look for partners, and even more so – to promote it, by keeping everything secret. Especially the latter can be problematic…

Let’s start with negotiations. Under the Civil Code, if we disclose the information with the proviso that they are confidential during the negotiations, the other party is obliged not to disclose and not to pass them along to third parties, and not to use them for their own purposes – unless the parties agree otherwise. Violation of these terms is subject to the liability for damages and risk of the need to return the benefits received (article Art. 721 of the Civil Code). A useful provision, but working only under the proviso of confidentiality.

The transfer, disclosure or use of someone else’s information, a trade secret, or their acquisition from an unauthorized person, if it threatens or violates the interests of the entrepreneur, is also unfair competition. And – the company’s secret is understood as technical, technological, organizational or other having economic value information not disclosed to the public, for which an entrepreneur has taken the necessary steps to maintain its confidentiality. In this provision two phrases are key. First: “not disclosed to the public”, that is, let’s say, published on a website. The provision does not rule out the provision of information to a contractor. The second phrase reads: “the necessary actions to maintain confidentiality.” What does this mean? NDA (non-disclosure agreement), limiting access to information, passwords, internal rules and placing the relevant clauses in presentations, offers, or correspondence, which shows the information is provided on a confidential basis.

Of course, if something is to be protected in this way, it  must be confidential information. It is not enough to deliver a banal idea with a confidentiality clause, in order to be able to block it and raise claims related to its violation later.What next?

Sooner or later, every secret comes to light. In the end, there comes a point when you have to announce the line-up and headliners of the festival, start to encourage participation in the mass event, and to announce the marketing activities associated with the event. Then we have to go after other tools, because the protection of the idea itself is not enough. Question – how to do it effectively?

We can protect a name / brand of such an event as a trade mark, in the case of event logos – a work,  or if someone wants to profit from our reputation – based on the provisions relating to unfair competition.

Protection can also be designed based on the scenarios, if they are more elaborate than the idea itself. Then we can talk about creative ideas – a kind of a film treatment or TV series, which can be protected by copyright if they are sufficiently creative and if they have an individual character.

Finally – interesting and original events can be “formatted”. The format is a combination of the concept, the script, the marks, the distinctive elements of scenography and business solutions. These formats are protected differently in different countries – usually it is a variation on the copyright, trademark and know-how, or on the basis of the provisions on unfair competition. With this mix events licensed all over the world are created, which permanently make a historical record.

Thus, although the concept itself (the idea) does not give many opportunities to protect, its manifestation definitely changes the situation. A particular model of actions taken each time depends on the event and its character.


The text originally appeared in the event industry magazine THINKMICE.

#copyright #events

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