Cowell, ABC, Freemantle sued for stealing 'Million Dollar Idea'

MUMBAI: Million Dollar Idea creators and hosts Jean Golden and Todd Walker have filed a lawsuit in the US Fedreal Court against ABC Television Network and American Idol judge Simon Cowell.

Golden and Walker stated that Cowell and ABC had conspired to steal the trademarked brand Million Dollar Idea, copy the entire premise of the show already airing in national syndication on over 125 television stations, and market that idea as their own.



The federal case is a direct response to ABC's 13 July, 2005 announcement of a new show of the same name, "created" by Cowell and "packaged" by CAA.

Golden and Walker are represented by Pierce O'Donnell and Ann Marie Mortimer of O'Donnell Shaeffer Mortimer, LLP, in Los Angeles.



"From stem to stern, each and every detail of Simon Cowell and ABC's mock Million Dollar Idea is a patent rip-off of Todd and Jean's four-year labor of love. Cowell and ABC conspired to destroy the very essence that the show Million Dollar Idea is here to promote - the ability of the little guy with a big dream to take an idea and bring it to fruition," said attorney Pierce O'Donnell.

O'Donnell added that the damages from the lawsuit are estimated to be well into the tens of millions of dollars, in an exact amount to be determined at trial.

In 2001, Golden and Walker - childhood friends who eventually became business partners in their own public relations and marketing firm in Minneapolis - teamed up and spent the next two years developing what became the Million Dollar Idea. By 2002, they pitched and shot a pilot of Million Dollar Idea for KSTC TV (the sister station to ABC affiliate KSTP) in Minneapolis. By 2003, the show was airing on KSTC, in US' 14th largest market - Minneapolis.

Three seasons and over 30 episodes later, the show was recently nationally syndicated to over 125 television stations. In the process, it drew the attention of the media including The New York Times, Time Magazine, NBC's The Today Show, Late Show with David Letterman and Entrepreneur Magazine. Golden and Walker registered for both copyright and trademark for the name and premise of Million Dollar Idea.

In early 2004, Walker pitched the idea to ABC Network executive vice president for Alternative Programming, Specials and Late Night Andrea Wong. Wong was enthused by the idea and Walker/Golden followed up by sending Wong a pitch package which included selected media coverage of Million Dollar Idea, taped episodes of the show, a business plan and treatment for a national show. Also included was a confidentiality agreement.

Golden and Walker also provided copies of their pitch materials to CAA, the same agency named in a recent ABC press release as having "packaged" the imitation "Million Dollar Idea.

In mid-July 2005, ABC and Cowell, with the help of CAA, announced a new show, titled Million Dollar Idea, that is an exact replica of the already-airing and trademarked / copyrighted show of the same name. The ABC release quotes both Cowell and Wong, who makes decisions for the network on reality show content.

"At what point does our society say 'enough is enough' to the big corporate giants who take advantage of the little guy? Business 101 classes teach that before you create or launch a new product or business, you must research the name and premise of the business to be sure that you are not infringing on trademark, patent or copyright of another individual," stated attorney Ann Marie Mortimer.

In addition to the direct theft of the show title, each and every major concept relating to the show idea was also stolen.

The lawsuit calls for immediate injunctive relief and unspecified damages.

"It is incredibly ironic that our show, the premise of which is to promote, protect and reward small-town American ingenuity, was itself the victim of corporate theft and greed. What has happened to us is every inventor/entrepreneur's worst nightmare: having your idea stolen. The arrogance of Simon Cowell and ABC is beyond comprehension. Can you imagine stealing an idea and not even bothering to change the name of it?," said Golden.

"We are outraged that Simon Cowell, and ABC Network think that they are above the law. We were taken aback to see our brand so brazenly stolen by corporate giants," said Walker.

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