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Reality IP TV

[Cross-posted at Conglomerate]

I’m so excited: Tonight at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central Time), the USA Network’s “Made in the USA” television series makes its debut.

This is “American Idol” meets the Patent Act, combining two great American mythologies: anyone can be a star, and anyone can get rich. All you need is a garage — and a stage.

Good Idea + Hard Work = Untold Riches. That’s the American Dream – but is it still possible? It is now with Made In The USA, television’s newest and most ingenious reality program where America’s unknown inventors and entrepreneurs get their shot at fame and fortune… and a chance to win a lucrative one-year contract with the TV shopping network HSN.

From thousands of Made In The USA hopefuls, six teams of two will be chosen to participate in a weekly competition. Over the course of the six-week series, the teams will develop their product from prototype to marketplace-ready. Each week, guest experts will be on hand to evaluate the teams as they undergo challenges and tasks designed to measure their abilities as inventors, collaborators, and marketers. One by one, teams will face elimination based on their performance and the opinion of the show’s three celebrity judges. After a final challenge, the viewing audience will vote to award a one-year TV shopping network HSN sales contract to the team with the best invention – and if that invention sells big, the winning team will earn untold millions and become the biggest winners in reality television history!

But is it really a scam? That’s why I’m watching; I’ll be waiting to see how far the producers let these people go before the rug gets completely and utterly pulled out from under them. Maybe someone will get all the way to HSN — and watch in horror as someone else makes off with millions selling copies of their inventions. The show’s website drools over the marketing professionals and entrepreneurs who’ll do the judging (including Nolan Bushnell, who gave us Pong, and the Petster, and Teddy Ruxpin, and the curse of parents everywhere, Chuck E. Cheese). But there’s no reference to patent lawyers. And the patent lawyer’s first instinct here is: Did these people file a patent application — even a provisional patent application — before going ahead with the demo? Because if they didn’t, they run a huge risk — of someone (someone playing at home, or in Hong Kong, or, say, Nolan Bushnell?) copying their ideas. I’ve been on game shows. I’ve seen (and signed) the releases. Whatever happens, the contestants will have no recourse whatsoever against anyone even related by marriage to a person associated with USA, the Home Shopping Network, or the Made in the USA series.

The first Pong home console

Is it in you? Let the games begin!

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