LOS ANGELES (CN) - Allegations that ABC ripped off "Big Brother" for the new reality TV show "The Glass House" are part of a "campaign" to "disrupt and harass" the production, three executives claim in court.
In May, Big Brother's home network, CBS, sued
its former supervising producers Corie Henson and Michael O'Sullivan, and executive producer Kenny Rosen, claiming they disclosed to ABC how "Big Brother" is filmed and produced.
Now the three executives have countersued, claiming CBS is using the "litigation equivalent of war." They asked a federal judge to stop the network from arbitrating its claims now that it has abandoned its lawsuit.
"CBS made these allegations as part of its campaign to prevent, or at the very least, disrupt and harass, the production of a new reality show 'The Glass House,' which CBS regarded as competitive with its reality show 'Big Brother.' Plaintiffs had previously worked on 'Big Brother' and then took jobs on 'The Glass House,'" the complaint states.
"CBS intended to send a message that former CBS employees who later dared to work for a competing show would be punished."
CBS knew that its former employees' nondisclosure agreement included arbitration clauses, but ignored that and sued them in Federal Court instead, the three execs say.
Three months after filing suit in May, CBS dropped its claims after a judge told the network that Big Brother's so-called trade secrets were well known in the television industry, and probably not protected, according to the complaint.
In August, CBS cited low ratings as the reason it had decided to drop its lawsuit against "The Glass House" makers.
"But CBS was not done harassing plaintiffs. On the same day that CBS dropped the plaintiffs from its federal case, it belatedly attempted to invoke the previously ignored arbitration provision in the non-disclosure agreements," the complaint states.
The executives, who accuse CBS of forum shopping, say they were sent arbitration demands seeking $1 million in liquidated and punitive damages.
"CBS's arbitration demand involves exactly the same claims and same facts upon which CBS sought to build a case in federal court. Moreover, the arbitration demand refers expressly to discovery CBS obtained during the court action," the complaint states.
The executives also asked the court to reject CBS's breach of contract and misappropriation claims.
Rosen and O'Sullivan are executive producers on "Glass House," which debuted in June on ABC. Henson is ABC's vice president of alternative programming.
ABC is not a party to the complaint.
The plaintiffs are represented by Glenn Pomerantz of Carolyn Hoecker Luedtke.
CBS did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.