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As we previously reported, CBS is suing ABC in federal court over the upcoming strangers-living-together show, arguing that it violates the intellectual property of Big Brother and that trade secrets obtained by at least 19 former Big Brother employees are being used to create the new show. ABC denies that Glass House, which is set to debut June 18, is a copycat, arguing that CBS can’t possibly claim copyright infringement over a live competition show that hasn’t been created yet.
Despite the lawsuit, ABC has moved forward with advertising the show and announcing the cast. But behind the scenes, an urgent legal drama is playing out. CBS is pulling out all the stops trying to prevent the show from airing, filing a motion May 31 to get the court’s permission to expedite the fact-finding process in preparation for a motion for preliminary injunction. ABC has fired back with its own court filing.
A hearing took place Friday, during which ABC was ordered to hand over a bunch of documents, including an “up-to-date outline of Glass House.” And a lengthy deposition took place Sunday of defendant Kenny Rosen, executive producer of Glass House and a former producer of Big Brother. The Rosen interrogation lasted seven hours, according to court documents, during which he was grilled about the format for Glass House and whether he is using any secret information or resources from his previous job at Big Brother to create the ABC show. The deposition is part of CBS’ effort to figure out exactly what Glass House is so its lawyers can fashion an effective argument to stop it.
To that end, CBS also filed court papers late Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess proposing an expedited schedule to gather more information. (Feess, incidentally, is the third judge on the case after two others recused themselves; he has experience in reality TV litigation, having presided over a case claiming NBC’s The Biggest Loser was stolen from another format.) The proposed schedule, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, is heavily redacted (a separate motion to seal the unredacted version also was filed), but it lays out CBS’ basic argument for why it wants to stop Glass House.
“CBS undeniably has an interest in stopping the irreparable harm caused by Defendants’ ongoing misappropriation of trade secrets, infringement of Big Brother‘s copyright and other unlawful activity (including spoilaiton of evidence),” the proposed schedule argues. “For these reasons, CBS intends to seek a [temporary restraining order] preventing the ongoing production and imminent airing of Glass House on June 18.”
ABC and Rosen responded with their own court filing disputing CBS’ characterization of the case and Rosen’s deposition. “For example, it is misleading — and frankly irrelevant to the legal claims — that Mr. Rosen said he hired more than 20 people with prior experience on Big Brother,” the Defendants argue. “What CBS does not tell this Court is that Mr. Rosen also testified that the vast majority of these people worked with Mr. Rosen more recently on a different reality show, Hell’s Kitchen, that has nothing to do with Big Brother. It is true that Mr. Rosen hires people with whom he has experience working on reality shows; there is nothing improper about that.”
The Defendants also take aim at CBS’ claim that certain evidence shows that trade secrets from Big Brother are being used on Glass House. “It is preposterous for CBS to argue that a one-page outdated master control room schedule from an old season of Big Brother is a trade secret,” the filing argues.
The back-and-forth is setting up a contentious battle over whether Glass House should be allowed to air. And with the premiere date less than two weeks away, the clock is ticking.
CBS is repped by Scott Edelman and a team from L.A.’s Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. ABC is repped by Glenn Pomerantz and a team from Munger Tolles & Olson. Rosen is repped by Devin McRae of L.A.’s Early Sullivan firm.
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