Important Legal Lessons from AMC’s “The Pitch” + Oprah’s Courtroom Drama.



woman-with-glasses-overlay business lawyerOne question that I get time and time again is:

What happens if I submit a proposal to a potential client. They don’t hire me. But, they jack my ideas and either execute themselves, or they give my idea to someone else who will perform the work cheaply.

AMC has a reality show series “The Pitch” that follows two advertising agencies who competitively pitch for the business of a large brand. It echoes this exact concern…

What happens if your ideas are jacked after The Pitch?

First things first. Copyright protects expressions of ideas while trade secrets generally protect formulas, patterns, physical devices, ideas, processes or compilations of information that give a competitive advantage, and are actually treated like a secret (more on that later in the series).

Here are a few ways to protect your awesome sauce.


Read the RFP (Request For Proposal) with a fine tooth comb. It may specifically state that the company to whom you are pitching, will own any intellectual property contained in your proposal. Decide right away whether to negotiate the IP rights, or whether the RFP is a good fit for your company.


Whether you are an individual, or  have an agency, you should consider what features of your proposal or strategy can remain generic while still showcasing your suitability and talent for the project.


Consider having the potential client sign an agreement that states that the strategies contained in the proposal remain your company’s intellectual property, until, and if, your company is formally engaged. This will be a more effective approach when dealing with smaller businesses, and entrepreneurs. Corporate giants may be less likely to sign such an agreement. Either way, hire an attorney licensed in your state to draft a proper agreement for you.

Lastly, I came across an interesting case concerning this very issue….

Oprah’s pending legal issue surrounding The Pitch.

Susan Kasi of Sunset Concepts sued Discovery Network claiming that her ideas were jacked and used for the OWN Network. Hollywood Reporter reports:

The plaintiff says that in 2003, she developed an idea for “Care Free TV” — a network that would offer therapeutic programming by broadcasting guided imagery of inspiring places, meditation, music, art and philosophy — and pitched it to Discovery.

Discovery eventually passed on her idea, but Kasi points to a “string of coincidences” relating to the Oprah Winfrey Network, which debuted in 2011 and is jointly operated by Discovery and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Among them was OWN’s habit of promoting conscious living through programming like “Super Soul Sunday” and “Good News Breaks.”

Kasi’s attorney says that the network stole ideas that she pitched to the network, and has used them without her permission.

What do you think? Team Oprah or Team Sunset Concepts?


4 thoughts on “Important Legal Lessons from AMC’s “The Pitch” + Oprah’s Courtroom Drama.

  • star on September 9th, 2013

    This is really a great post and the OWN case will be one to follow. It’ll be interesting to see how Team Sunset proves their case. Thanks again for the timely, interesting legal cases you share in this blog.

  • Kenya WriteNow on September 10th, 2013

    I wonder has Kasi ever watched an Oprah show. In that case, maybe Oprah’s show inspired her, and therefore… lol I mean, if you’ve ever watched an Oprah show, you know that’s what Oprah’s all about, and I can see everything about OWN’s general concept being all of Oprah’s own (pun intended) ideas and creations. However, show business is dirty, and I wouldn’t put it past them turning down Kasi’s idea and then passing it on as their own.

  • mylifestylezen on September 10th, 2013

    @92bac6af6175e7e0457fdd7ef93e64b7:disqus I agree. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out. @02d5752144b6d2e02f802339aeaa0d8a:disqus right??!?!The court will decide. Thanks for contributing to the conversation ladies!

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    […] I actually just blogged about that last week! (See “Know When to Share Your Business Ideas and When to Shut the H*ll Up.”) That’s as basic as I can put it. You can have a group of close friends in a “Business Best […]

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