Unfortunately, you cannot protect ideas. Obviously, similar - or in many cases - the same ideas are used and re-packaged over and over again in television and in motion pictures. However, when those ideas are transformed into a dramatic work (a movie or television script, motion picture, video etc.), they can then be protected under copyright law. This holds true for any creative work. A song, a book, a magazine article or in your case, a television show.
If you develop your idea into a script, it is then possible for you to register for a copyright, through the US Copyright Office in Washington DC.
What is the definition of a script? Manuscript, Video, Audio CD (what the copyright office still terms "Phonorecords").
You can also register a trademark for the name of your show and any logo that is associated with it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov).
1) Copyright. You can register online (electronic filing). I believe the fee is $35. There is also now an online fill-in form called a CO form that takes place of a PA form and is quicker, however more expensive ($50). Turnaround time is typically 12-18 months, however a CO register can be as short as 8 months. Conventional way of filing Form PA (Performing Arts) is still valid, and costs $65. Here is their website http://www.copyright.gov/
2) Trademark. As I mentioned previously, this is done through the US Patent and Trademark Office. You are required to complete a search. More about this on their website at http://www.uspto.gov.
This is a tricky area and you will need to consult with
an experienced trademark attorney to see if this is a viable option for you.
Those are the two ways that are available to you for protection.
Thank you for your question.
Edited by Hugh on 10/26/2009 at 1:45 AM EST