French Court Rejects Endemol's Copyright Suit Against Banijay

The suit claimed Banijay's reality series "Dilemma" copied Endemol's popular French formats "Loft Story" and "Secret Story."

The Paris Court of Appeal has rejected claims by Endemol France that a production company belonging to competitor Banijay Group is guilty of format theft.

The court rejected all of Endemol's claims of unfair competition against Banijay-owned ALJ Productions.

The case centered on the ALJ-produced reality series format Dilemma, which airs on RTL Group's French digital terrestrial network W9.

In the suit, Endemol claimed the Dilemma format borrowed too heavily from Endemol France's popular reality series Loft Story and Secret Story.

Endemol won in the first instance, when the Paris Commercial Court ruled against ALJ, fining them $1.3 million (€1 million) in damages and ordering an injunction to prevent Banijay from selling the Dilemma format internationally. But the appeals court through that ruling out, saying it ALJ "committed no offense against the company Endemol likely to characterize an act of unfair competition."

Endemol's suit also targeted ALJ Productions boss Alexia Laroche-Joubert, a former executive at Endemol, claiming she had breached obligations with her former employer. The court also rejected those allegations.

In a statement, Endemol said it was "extremely surprised" by the verdict.

“The Court of Appeal has taken the view that the core characteristics of this kind of reality TV program do not constitute a format that can be protected by law. This ruling is potentially dangerous for the production sector as a whole; one which may jeopardize creative initiatives whilst encouraging unfair behavior and piracy. We have already started to receive significant support from the industry and given the terms of this ruling."

Endemol said it would appeal the ruling to the French Supreme Court.

As part of the judgement, Endemol France has to reimburse ALJ the €1 million fine in addition to $130,000 (€100,000) in legal costs. Banijay is also free to resume selling the Dilemma format and will begin offering it up to buyers at the MIPCOM international TV market in Cannes next month.

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