LOS ANGELES - A lawsuit filed Wednesday against ABC and "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell alleges they conspired to steal the brand and concept of "Million Dollar Idea," a series airing in syndication.
The suit, filed in federal court by Jean Golden and Todd Walker, the creators and hosts of "Million Dollar Idea," follows ABC's announcement in July of a new show of the same name that the network said was created by Cowell.
"From stem to stern, each and every detail of Simon Cowell and ABC's mock 'Million Dollar Idea' is a patent rip-off of Todd and Jean's four-year labor of love," attorney Pierce O'Donnell alleged in a statement Wednesday.
The lawsuit sees to stop ABC from using the name and idea and calls for unspecified damages. O'Donnell predicted they would reach into "the tens of millions of dollars."
A call seeking comment from Cowell was not immediately returned Wednesday.
"We have not even been served with the complaint in this matter, and so have no comment," said ABC spokeswoman Annie Fort.
The suit also names FremantleMedia North America, producer of Fox's "American Idol" and proposed producer of ABC's "The Million Dollar Idea." (Note the slightly different title.) FremantleMedia does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Brian Reinert said.
"Million Dollar Idea" first aired on KSTC-TV in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market in 2003. The series was recently syndicated to more than 125 stations nationwide and its creators registered for both copyright and trademark for the show's name and premise, according to their statement.
The show is taped before an audience and judges at the Mall of America. New product inventors and marketers from across the country compete for a prize package to help launch their product and place it for sale with a Mall of America retailer.
The syndicated series has received newspaper, magazine and TV coverage, including on NBC's "Today" show, the suit says.
"It is incredibly ironic that our show, the premise of which is to promote, protect and reward small-town American ingenuity, was itself the victim of corporate theft and greed," Golden said.
Her partner, Walker, pitched a deal for the show to ABC in early 2004 and provided copies of their presentation to CAA, according to the suit. That's the same agency identified in a recent ABC press release as having "packaged" "The Million Dollar Idea" with Cowell.
Besides the alleged theft of the title, every major concept connected to the show also was copied, the suit claims.
In the July 13 news release announcing "The Million Dollar Idea," ABC described the series as "a nationwide search for America's greatest entrepreneur with the best business idea or new product," with the prize to be $1 million "worth of business support," including cash and other resources.
The idea was conceived by Cowell and British entrepreneur Peter Jones, according to the ABC release.
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