A&E Networks and Steven Seagal have suffered a setback in the multi-million dollar idea-theft lawsuit over Seagal's hit reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman. A Los Angeles judge has denied A&E and Seagal's efforts to dismiss key claims on summary judgment.
Principals of a company called Idea Factory met with Seagal back in 2007 and pitched the idea of a reality show about the action star. They also took the pitch to A&E, where the idea was allegedly first broached about focusing a show on Seagal's work in his spare time with the Jefferson Parish Sherrif's department.
But the pitches never went anywhere. Then litigation erupted in August 2009, just before the premiere of A&E's Lawman, which Idea Factory claimed in a multi-million dollar lawsuit is ripped off from its idea. The lawsuit against A&E and Seagal argued that there was a deal with Seagal to do the show with Idea Factory and an implied contract with A&E for Idea Factory to produce any Seagal program (and get executive producer fees, production rental fees and participation in revenue from the show, etc).
Lawyers for A&E and Seagal claim the suit should be dismissed because, among other reasons, there was no deal with Seagal to participate in the Idea Factory show, and Idea Factory's idea for a Seagal show wasn't novel. But in several rulings on summary judgment motions issued this week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon refused to accept A&E's and Seagal's arguments.
“Because there appears to be facts showing that the material terms of the agreement were decided, there's a triable issue of fact as to whether an oral agreement existed,” the court ruled in denying key claims in Seagal's motion.
In addition, it ruled that A&E “has not established any facts to prevent a reasonable trier of fact from finding plaintiff's idea as being ‘novel.'”
ICM and agent Nick Reed, who repped Seagal at the time, fared better with the judge. The agency's motions for summary judgment were granted.
The judge also found that the implied contract claim is not pre-empted by federal copyright law, which means a lot to lawyers contemplating bringning these kinds of stolen-idea claims in state court (rather than federal court, where copyright law makes it very tough to win).
Idea Factory and its related companies Genuine Entertainment and Rebel Entertainment Partners are represented by Beverly Hills attorney Neville Johnson. A&E is repped by Kelli Sager at Davis Write Tremaine. We've reached out to Sager for comment.