The claimant musicians pitched the Real Deal, a music talent show, to Sky. Sky did not commission the claimants’ show, but later commissioned and broadcast another musical talent show programme, Must be the Music. The claimants issued proceedings against the defendant for misuse of their confidential information.

Wade and another v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd: Chancery Division: 11 March 2014

Confidential information – Claimants pitching television programme to defendant – Defendant subsequently broadcasting own programme

The claimants had had successful careers in the music business. In 2006, they conceived an idea for a television programme, the Real Deal, which was a talent show that featured artists who wrote and performed their own material. Another key element of the idea was that the original track the artists performed was to be made available for download and would be eligible for inclusion in the national chart.

The claimants prepared a ‘deck’ of slides to encapsulate their pitch.

In June 2009, the partnership pitched their idea to a commissioning editor at the defendant (Sky) based on the deck, which was subsequently sent to her. In February, the claimants received a message that Sky had decided not to commission the Real Deal. In 2010, it emerged that Sky was making a new music talent show, Must be the Music, featuring downloading and original music. In July 2012, the claimants issued proceedings for misuse of confidential information.

They contended that: (i) the contents of the deck, as a detailed proposal for a television programme, had been confidential and that Sky had been obliged not to misuse that confidence; and (ii) Sky had misused that confidential information by taking ideas for the Real Deal from the deck and using them to create Must be the Music. Sky contended and produced evidence that Must be the Music had been conceived, developed and produced entirely independently of the Real Deal.

The claim would be dismissed.

The idea of chart eligible downloading on a music talent show did not, on its own, have the necessary quality of confidence to be protectable in an action for misuse of confidential information. It had been a well-known idea. Using singer-songwriters on a music talent show, either as judges, contestants or both, were not ideas with the necessary quality of confidence to be protectable.

On their own, those ideas were not original. The various tell-tale indications relied on to show a link between Must be the Music and the Real Deal individually and even when considered as a whole had not amounted to strong evidence to support the inference that aspects of Must be the Music had been derived from the Real Deal. There were similarities between Must be the Music and some ideas in the deck, but the evidence had explained their origin.

The inference that the ideas which Must be the Music embodied in common with the Real Deal had had to have been derived from the deck was not strong enough to leave any real doubt about the right conclusion in the case. Sky’s evidence would be accepted. Must be the Music had been created entirely independently of the Real Deal (see [70], [75], [120], [121] of the judgment).

The claimants appeared in person.

John Baldwin QC and Lindsay Lane (instructed by Charles Russell LLP) for Sky.