The creator of a television concept called "American Runway" sued the producer of the successful television program "Project Runway" alleging that Project Runway was an illegal copy of "American Runway."
Both "American Runway" and "Project Runway" are based on the idea of organizing a contest to spot new fashion designers. In "American Runway" contestants would create a new mid-priced sportswear clothing line that would be featured in department stores, and television viewers would be able to vote for their favorite designer. In "Project Runway" contestants compete for a chance to be identified as the next promising designer in the haute couture market, and contestants are judged by a panel of well-known haute couture designers and other industry experts.
In their claim against Heidi Klum and the producers of "Project Runway," the creators of "American Runway" claimed that defendants had access to the proposal for "American Runway" and that they copied large parts of that proposal. Judge Loretta A. Preska from the Southern District of New York dismissed the plaintiffs' claims on summary judgment, holding that plaintiffs had failed to prove that the creators of "Project Runway" had had access to the "American Runway" project and that even if they had had access, they had not copied protectable elements of the "American Runway" proposal. After comparing "Project Runway" with the "American Runway" proposal, Judge Preska concluded that the similarities between the two works related to unprotectable ideas as opposed to original and protected expression of those ideas. The numerous similarities identified by plaintiffs related to situations that naturally flow from the underlying idea of organizing a contest for fashion designers. Those elements are "scenes à faire" and can no more benefit from copyright protection than the underlying idea itself.
Hogan partners Eric Lobenfeld and Kate Bolger represented defendants Heidi Klum, Miramax, and the Walt Disney Company in the lawsuit.