Channel 7 has lost its bid to get an interlocutory injunction against Channel 9’s show Hotplate.
Channel 7 claimed Hotplate infringes Channel 7’s copyright in the dramatic works consisting of the combination and series of incidents, plot, images and sounds that make up My Kitchen Rules:
- MKR Series 1, Episode 1;
- the whole of MKR Series 1;
- the whole of MKR Series 5; and
- the whole of MKR Series 6.
Nicholas J found that Channel 7 had a reasonably arguable case, but did not agree with Channel 7 that it was a strong prima facie case. Then, his Honour considered the balance of convenience weighed in Channel 9’s favour.
Prima facie case
Nicholas J thought this might well cause Channel 7 some difficulties. At  his Honour said:
There may be a difficulty in framing the case in this way. My understanding of Seven’s case is that it claims copyright in the dramatic work that constitutes the format for the MKR television program which was first reduced to material form in Series 1, Episode 1 (see Seven’s outline of submissions para 11). If that is correct, then one would expect subsequent episodes of MKR merely to reproduce the dramatic work (ie. the format) first seen in Series 1, Episode 1. The alternative approach involves treating every subsequent episode of MKR as an original dramatic work that has its own original format. This seems inconsistent with the way in which Seven has argued its case. In any event, it is not necessary to explore this issue in any detail for present purposes. In due course Seven will need to explain precisely how it puts its case.
Channel 9 contended that many of the key elements of MyKitchen Rules were common place and unoriginal. The makers of Hotplate, Endemol, also pointed to a catalogue of what it said were very substantial differences between the 2 shows:
(a) The Hotplate is based on professional restaurateurs, and established restaurant businesses, whereas MKR involves amateur cooks in their kitchens.
(b) The restaurants and contestants for The Hotplate were selected because they were varied examples of different restaurant styles and the best characters, not because they are from a particular State (as is the case for MKR) – as a result, two restaurants are in Sydney, one is in Brisbane, one is in Perth, one is in Mandurah (in Western Australia) and one is in regional Victoria.
(c) The restaurant businesses featured in The Hotplate focus on different cuisines in order to show different cooking styles, including Italian, Japanese, French, seafood, modern Australian and Asian fusion.
(d) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the contestants are required to cook meals from their existing menu, and must be prepared to cook anything on the menu since they are not given advance notice of which two entrees, two mains and two desserts will be ordered by the judges, whereas in MKR the contestants select their own menu of one entree, one main and one dessert. The Hotplate shows the contestants preparing meals, but does not show them shopping for ingredients as for MKR.
(e) When their restaurant is featured, the contestants in The Hotplate wear what they generally wear in their day-to-day business – they are not provided with a branded apron as they are for MKR or for Masterchef (another well-known cooking program).
(f) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the other restauranteur contestants provide their scores to the judges in a bill folder, but in Round 2 (after the restaurant makeovers), the other contestants must deliver their scores directly to the contestants whose restaurant is being featured on the night.
(g) The judges in The Hotplate give feedback to the contestants about everything from the ambiance and decor of the restaurant to the service to the overall menu to the specific dishes they serve – this is aimed at assisting the restaurateurs with how they can improve their businesses as a whole, not just the cooking. This is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve actual restaurant businesses.
(h) In Round 2 of The Hotplate, the contestants are given an amount of money to undertake renovations and makeovers of their restaurant’s furniture, colour scheme and decor in addition to updating of the restaurant’s menu. Again, this is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve the renovation or makeover of restaurant businesses. This information may be confidential to Nine. I have not had time to check while preparing this affidavit.
(i) In Round 3 of The Hotplate, the contestants cook meals from their newly renovated restaurants for diners. This is not an element of the MKR program since it does not involve restaurants or their diners.
Balance of convenience
Nicholas J accepted that Channel 7’s losses would be difficult to quantify. His Honour considered, however, that Channel 9’s losses would also be particularly difficult to quantify. The factor which appears to have tipped the balance, bearing in mind the problematic strength of Channel 7’s claim that its rights were infringed, was the disruption to Channel 9’s broadcasting schedule. 3 episodes of Hotplate had already broadcast and it was unrealistic to expect Channel 9 could simply resume where it left off, or start over again, if it successfully defended the infringement claim. At  and , his Honour said:
During the course of argument it was suggested by Senior Counsel for Seven that if Nine was restrained from broadcasting further episodes of Hotplate, it would be able to resume broadcasting them at a later date on the assumption that no permanent injunction was granted. I doubt that this would be as simple as the submission seemed to suggest. Presumably it would be necessary for Nine to re-broadcast the first three or more episodes. I think it would be difficult for Nine to re-establish the program’s momentum after it was abruptly halted by injunction and then “shelved” for however many months it takes to determine the proceeding and any subsequent appeal.
There is evidence from Ms Officer to show that Nine considers Hotplate to be a key piece of its programming that Nine has decided to broadcast in prime-time slots not only with a view to achieving high ratings for Hotplate itself, but also with a view to boosting the ratings of some of Nine’s other programs.
Seven Network (Operations) Limited v Endemol Australia Pty Limited  FCA 800