Former "Big Brother" producers claim that CBS harassed them in the court system when they moved on to rival series "The Glass House"
The legal battle over CBS's "Big Brother" and ABC's similarly themed reality offering "The Glass House" isn't over yet.
Former "Big Brother" producers Kenny Rosen, Corie Henson and Michael O'Sullivan, who were sued by CBS after moving on to ABC's rival show, have now filed suit themselves against CBS, claiming that the network breached its contract by violating its non-disclosure agreements with them.
The suit also accuses CBS of waging a legal harassment campaign with its original suit, which was filed in the spring.
"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,'" the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central California on Thursday, reads. "Plaintiffs had previously worked on 'Big Brother' and then took jobs on 'The Glass House.' CBS intended to send a message that former CBS employees who later dared to work for a competing show would be punished."
The complaint says that, in its earlier suit, CBS accused the producers of violating their non-disclosure agreements by using trade secrets obtained while working on "Big Brother." However, the producers say, the agreements stipulated that disputes should be settled by arbitration, not federal court, where CBS filed its complaint.
The suit goes on to claim that, when it became apparent that the judge expressed doubt in CBS's legal arguments, the network dropped the suit and filed an arbitration demand against Rosen, Henson and O'Sullivan — and then violated the confidentially clause of the non-disclosure agreement by issuing a press release saying that it would now pursue the matter through arbitration.
According to the complaint, the non-disclosure agreement stipulates that any arbitration "will be treated as confidential and will not be disclosed to any third party to such proceedings."
CBS believes that the former "Big Brother" producers are merely trying to stall the arbitration proceedings with their suit.
“We believe this is simply an attempt to delay the inevitable arbitration proceeding," a CBS spokesman told TheWrap in a statement. "We are very confident in our position that there has been a violation of signed, written confidentiality agreements, and we will look forward to a determination of that matter by the arbitration panel.”
CBS filed suit in the spring, before "Glass House" premiered, claiming that there were too many similarities between the shows — which both monitor the activities of a group of people living in the same dwelling — to be coincidental, and claimed that the producers had brought secrets from "Big Brother" to their new venture.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess was disinclined to agree. In his June decision not to grant CBS's restraining order against the show, Fees wrote, "the Court … has concluded that, while it cannot say that CBS will not prevail at trial, it has concluded that success on the merits is unlikely."
The order added, "the evidence indicates to the Court that 'Big Brother''s alleged trade secrets were either already known to the business … were readily capable of being 'reverse-engineering' based on information disclosed in the public domain … or were not adequately protected as trade secrets."
"The Glass House" premiered in June to soft ratings, drawing a 1.6 rating/4 share in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, and continued to suffer poor ratings.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.