Clarkson races past Intellectual Property barriers

The first episode of The Grand Tour has already become the biggest premiere on Amazon Prime. The creativity of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May has brought in record audiences with viewers and critics responding in a hugely positive way. However, the structure of the new show was partly shaped by Clarkson’s concerns that the BBC might sue if the format was deemed too similar to Top Gear.

Having found themselves without a production company in 2015, and despite having a budget of £4.5 million per show, the lively trio had some intellectual property hurdles to overcome when trying to repeat the success they enjoyed on Top Gear.

BBC’s Registered Trade Marks

As BBC owns rights to Top Gear, the presenters had to be careful not to copy any of the distinctive and unique elements of the Top Gear show. Clarkson has been open about the legal challenges faced by the team and has said that three weeks before The Grand Tour was to hit Amazon Prime, the legal restrictions had left him worried about the format of the new motoring show.

Jeremy wrote in the Sunday Times magazine about the extensive collection of trade marks owned by the BBC: “The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, the Cool Wall, the Stig – all that had been left behind … and replaced with other stuff… Would that be like the Rolling Stones suddenly appearing on stage in tweed suits and doing Abba songs?”

Unregistered Rights

Aside from the registered trade marks, another key feature of Top Gear was the filming in a static location. The crew were told by their lawyers that they could not use a studio. After some thinking, they decided to do a studio recording at a different place each week inside a huge tent, which will be packed up and relocated for each of the shows.

However, despite the test track being a key feature of the Top Gear show, they decided that this is an essential requirement of any car show and therefore decided to use a test track in The Grand Tour.

The Grand Tour

Deciding on a name for the new show would have been another important step from an intellectual property perspective. It is important to carry out research to check if there is anything similar already available and to ensure you are not infringing anyone’s trade mark rights.

By registering your trade mark you can protect your brand identity and take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your permission, put the ® symbol next to your brand, and sell and licence your brand to others.

If you require assistance in identifying the intellectual property in your business, or would like advice on protecting or exploiting any of your intellectual property, please do not hesitate to contact me at or on 0800 689 0831.

Ismaeel Waseem

About Ismaeel Waseem

Ismaeel Waseem is a Solicitor in the Corporate & Restructuring team at Forbes Solicitors. Ismaeel’s blogs cover the drafting of commercial contracts including, amongst others, those for the provision of both goods and services (including both business to business and business to consumer contracts); commercial agency and franchisee agreements; manufacturing and distribution; sport and charities. Ismaeel also writes on the identification, protection and exploitation of intellectual property and on a variety of IT issues.
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