CBS warns ABC about "Glass House" lawsuit

Rachel Reilly from Los Angeles wins "Big Brother," Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.
Sonja Flemming/CBS
Rachel Reilly from Los Angeles wins "Big Brother," Sept. 14, 2011.

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - CBS is hoping a legal warning shot shatters rival network ABC's plans for its reality show "The Glass House."

Attorneys for CBS sent ABC executives a letter Friday warning that "The Glass House" is "strikingly" similar to CBS' summer show "Big Brother." The network notes that ABC may be benefiting from the fact that 18 former "Big Brother" staffers and executives are now working on the planned ABC show.

"Glass House" would feature contestants who are constantly filmed and eliminated from a home they share, and viewers will be able to influence many of their actions, according to a description of the series released Monday. The Julie Chen-hosted "Big Brother," which has been a summer staple on CBS since 2000, has similar features.

Attorneys for CBS noted that the former "Big Brother" staffers now working on the show, including "Glass House" Executive Producer Kenny Rosen, all signed nondisclosure agreements and are likely violating them by working on the new series.

"In the strongest possible terms, we must admonish ABC and anyone involved in the development or production of 'Glass House' that they will be acting at their own peril if they continue to proceed in this manner," says the letter that was sent to ABC and later obtained by The Associated Press and other news outlets.

ABC had no comment on CBS' allegations.

The letter states that CBS, which owns the U.S. licenses and copyrights to "Big Brother," could sue ABC and block "Glass House" from being broadcast. "Glass House" is set to debut in June.

Previous cases involving copycat allegations in reality television have been difficult to win in court, but judges assess their merits after reviewing both products.

"With the striking similarities to 'Big Brother' and their concerted effort to recruit a large number of former staff from the show, we don't see how ABC can produce this new series without infringing on our rights," CBS wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon.

ABC settled a case on confidential terms last year with the Tokyo Broadcasting System over allegations that ABC's hit show "Wipeout" was a copycat of several Japanese game shows such as "Takeshi's Castle," "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" and "Ninja Warrior."