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Designers file copyright lawsuit vs. ‘Runway’

Zwiebach, Rodriguez claim they pitched idea to Klum's agents in 2003
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two New York fashion designers on Tuesday sued Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal, supermodel Heidi Klum and others, claiming they originally developed the idea for what became the television show “Project Runway.”

In a copyright lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, designers Cynthia Rodriguez and Elizabeth Marie Anne Zwiebach claim they provided a 40-page outline for a reality show they were interested in developing titled “American Runway” to Klum’s agents after first approaching the agents with the idea in July 2003.

The designers claim they had previously registered and copyrighted the work with the Writer’s Guild of America in March 2003 and that “Project Runway” is “strikingly similar” to their idea.

The first season of “Project Runway” aired on the Bravo channel, which is part of NBC Universal, from December 2004 to February 2005. The second season of the show is slated to premiere on Bravo later this week. NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.

Defendants include Klum, Disney, Disney’s Miramax Film Corp. unit, Miramax founders Harvey and Robert Weinstein, their new venture Weinstein Co. and NBC Universal (MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft).

Disney referred calls to its Miramax unit, while NBC Universal referred calls to Bravo.

Spokespeople at Miramax and Bravo did not immediately return phone calls from Dow Jones late Tuesday. A Weinstein Co. spokeswoman did not immediately have a comment late Tuesday. A representative for Klum could not immediately be located for comment on Tuesday.

Last month, a man filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles claiming that in February 2003 he pitched a similar concept called “America’s Fashion Designer Search” to producers of “Project Greenlight,” a Miramax-developed program that also aired on Bravo.