FremantleMedia-owned Israeli prodco Abot Hameiri went public with an allegation that Banijay Zodiak Nordisk had copied its format Best of All format ahead of MIPCOM.
FremantleMedia said this afternoon it will take the matter to court after renewed attempts to contact Banijay, and to resolve the issue outside of court, failed.
FremantleMedia is understood to have offered to take the matter to mediation via intellectual property protection bodies FRAPA or WIPO to no avail.
Banijay has always maintained its innocence in the matter, and suggested Abot Hameiri was attempting to destabilise its efforts to sell the show at MIPCOM with the timing of its public accusation.
Banijay recently struck new deals for its All Against 1 format (pictured), which Abot Hamieri claims is a copy of Best of All, with sources suggesting any sales could be jeopardised depending on the outcome of legal proceedings.
The matter is now set for a UK court, with a claim for breach of confidence and copyright infringement issued by FremantleMedia in the High Court in London. The producer and distributor said it had taken this course of action “reluctantly”.
Banijay could not immediately be reached for comment. The firm has previously said its All Against 1 format was worked up in 2014 and based on another show it owned called King of Chess.
FremantleMedia alleges the timelines involved mean it had actually been pitched Are You Smarter Than the Crowd (the original name for Best of All), by this point, and that a series of development meetings that outlined the format beats had subsequently occured between the companies before Banijay passed.
FremantleMedia went on to say that “there were so many striking similarities between the pitch materials Abot Hameiri provided and All Against One that Abot Hameiri felt compelled to raise this with Banijay”.
FremantleMedia claimed it has continued to seek a satisfactory response from Banijay since the matter became public at MIPCOM, to no avail.
To date it claims Banijay has “failed to produce any evidence to support their claims that their programme is not derivative of the material they were pitched”, the Fremantle allegation claimed.
FremantleMedia also says it is concerned about the precedent set by the dispute and ensuring that producers can pitch in confidence at markets and festivals without a legal agreement or NDA in place.
FremantleMedia’s statement in full
“Abot Hameiri has today issued a claim for breach of confidence and copyright infringement in the High Court in London, arising out of Banijay’s unlawful disclosure and use of Abot Hameiri’s format Are You Smarter Than the Crowd. They have done so reluctantly after several weeks of attempts to resolve the dispute without the need for legal proceedings were aggressively rejected by Banijay.
“Abot Hameiri strongly believes that the Alle Mod 1 format – produced by Banijay’s Danish subsidiary Banijay Nordisk for Danish broadcaster DR1 (and known internationally as All Against 1) – is based on their format Are You Smarter Than the Crowd, which was initially pitched to Banijay at MIPTV 2014.
“Abot Hameiri and Banijay executives had numerous conversations following the pitch, and at Banijay’s request, Abot Hameiri followed up this first meeting by sending a detailed treatment and sizzle tape, which Banijay reviewed at its Content Meeting and Creative Board, before advising Abot Hameiri they didn’t want to move forward with it.
“Abot Hameiri only discovered the existence of All Against 1 in August. There were so many striking similarities between the pitch materials Abot Hameiri provided and All Against 1 that Abot Hameiri felt compelled to raise this with Banijay. They first wrote to Banijay at the start of September setting out their concerns.
“However, Banijay chose not to respond to the allegations until only a few days before MIPCOM, and to date they have failed to produce any evidence to support their claims that their programme is not derivative of the material they were pitched.
“Banijay is asserting that All Against One is based on a programme they produced for Norwegian broadcaster NRK called King of Chess. However, King of Chess aired in November 2014, so at the point they say they were developing King of Chess into an international format, they already had access to the Are You Smarter Than the Crowd treatment and sizzle, because these had been sent to them in April 2014.
“Abot Hameiri’s main concern has always been to ensure that pitches, which are made in good faith by format creators on the basis that the material will only be used by the receiving party if a deal comes out of the pitch process can go ahead without fear that the confidential material disclosed during that process is misused.”