Banijay Group plans to defend itself against allegations it stole a format idea from FremantleMedia-owned Abot Hameiri.
On Nov. 7, the Israeli prodco filed a claim in British court alleging that Banijay’s interactive game show, All Against 1, is based on Abot’s format Are You Smarter Than The Crowd?
In response, Banijay issued a statement Nov. 9 slamming the allegations as “baseless” and added that the company “strongly defends its position with regards to All Against 1 and looks forward to defending itself in court against the current claims.”
The company plans to file a counter-claim against Abot for “a declaration of non-infringement and damages for their attempt to damage Banijay’s format and current and potential sales.”
The legal dispute erupted during the MIPCOM market in Cannes, France last month when a lawyer for Abot accused Banijay of poaching Against All 1 from an idea the company pitched in 2014.
Banijay countered that the concept sprang from its King of Chess format, which which was originally developed for TV2′s Format Lab in 2013. It was later presented to Norway’s public broadcaster NRK and aired in November 2014.
The company reitereated that claim in its statement this week, adding that the show’s underlying idea is based on the wisdom of the crowd theory, which “has been known since 1906 and is not something Abot Hameiri has invented. There are a number of other derivative entertainment formats from all over the world available on the market using similar mechanisms but none using our unique structure.
“There has never been a final decision of the English Courts upholding ‘format rights’ in television programs and Banijay does not expect this case to be the first, given the baseless and unsubstantiated allegations currently put forward,” the statement continues.
Banijay further claimed that Abot filed its claim to the County Court, not the High Court as it originally stated – a sign of weakness in the case.
Abot’s lawyer, Jonathan Coad, responded by sending realscreen a copy of the claim form which bears a stamp that reads the High Court of Justice and the Chancery Chambers,
“The claim has been issued in the Chancery Division of the High Court of London; not the County Court,” Abot said in a statement via its lawyers.
“We are not at all concerned about a possible counterclaim which we are confident will fail, especially as Banijay has still to produce any evidence that their programme is original,” the company added.
Earlier this week, Coad told realscreen that the £40,000 figure identified in the claim is the estimated net profit to Banijay Nordisk for the sale of All Against 1 to Danish pubcaster DR1, which aired the 60-minute format earlier this year and recently greenlit a second season.
Coad added that amount would rise “accordingly” if more sales take place.
In its statement, Banijay countered that “this small amount indicates nothing more than a ‘nuisance claim.’”
Against All 1 has been picked up in Finland by Nelonen, and NRK is developing a Norwegian version. Banijay is also in advanced negotiations with broadcaster Sat 1 to produce the format in Germany.