CBS sued ABC on Thursday to stop an upcoming reality show that CBS claims is being developed in violation of its copyrights and with secrets obtained from the long-running reality show "Big Brother."
The federal lawsuit seeks an injunction barring ABC from continuing its work or airing "The Glass House," a show that will film and allow viewers to vote off contestants living together in a house.
CBS claims the show copies the formula used for its hit series "Big Brother," and that ABC has hired 19 of the show's former staffers to help make "Glass House."
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The lawsuit also names two top "Glass House" producers and an ABC programming executive who worked on "Big Brother," claiming they are violating non-disclosure agreements and giving away secrets of the show to their new employers.
"In copying 'Big Brother,' defendants have had an unprecedented and troubling degree of access to CBS's copyrightable expression, as well as CBS's protected trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information related to the behind-the-scenes development, filming and production of 'Big Brother,'" the lawsuit states.
In its lawsuit, CBS claims an unnamed ABC executive instructed others to try to hire as many former "Big Brother" staffers as possible to undercut its competitor.
ABC denied wrongdoing in a statement, calling the lawsuit meritless.
"The differences between 'Glass House' and 'Big Brother' are both fundamental and obvious," the network wrote in a statement, citing interactive elements, audience participation and new technologies.
It will be up to a federal judge to compare the similarities and differences in the shows and determine if CBS should be given an injunction and potentially millions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit states many valuable elements of "Big Brother" cannot be gleaned from merely watching the show. The suit says the processes in which story lines are created and challenges are handled involving the filming of contestants around-the-clock are protected by the non-disclosure agreements.
"Many of the 'Big Brother' trade secrets were developed because of the series' fast-paced schedule and unique format," the lawsuit states.