'Wipeout' suit: We've seen this all before

Japanese broadcaster says ABC ripped off its premise, format, intro, setups, narration, dialogue

Leading Japanese broadcaster Tokyo Broadcasting System has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ABC, charging that summer hit "Wipeout" is "a blatant copycat" of several of its classic Japanese competition series.

Tokyo Broadcasting owns the Japanese copyright to the obstacle course series "Takeshi's Castle"; co-owns the right to Spike TV's "MXC," which uses footage from "Castle"; and owns the copyright to competition series "Sasuke," whose dubbed repeats air under the title "Ninja Warrior" on G4.

"From the moment ABC revealed 'Wipeout' to the public, that program has been routinely described as a 'rip-off' and 'knockoff' of plaintiff's shows," reads the complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. "ABC's willful and wrongful use of plaintiff's shows to create 'Wipeout' is egregious, inexcusable and not to be tolerated."

Among the charges are that ABC bought search terms like "MXC" on Google to help drive traffic to the official "Wipeout" page and that specific obstacles in "Wipeout" were knock-offs of challenges in the Japanese shows.

" 'Wipeout' unlawfully appropriates the premise, the format, the sequence of events, the introductory segment, the tone, the scene setups, the narration, the dialogue that arises from constructed situations … of the shows," the lawsuit reads.

Notably missing from the defendant list on Tokyo Broadcasting's complaint is Endemol USA, the company producing "Wipeout." A separate suit against Endemol is pending, sources said.

In addition to its successful run in the U.S., Endemol is actively selling the show's format around the world, directly competing with the formats for Tokyo Broadcasting's series.

ABC and Stein declined comment.

Matt Belloni contributed to this report.
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