Court rejects Lifetime’s ‘Runway’ bid

Network had requested to move case out of N.Y.

A federal court has rejected Lifetime’s bid to move the fight surrounding “Project Runway” out of a New York state court.

In September, a Gotham state court judge slapped an injunction on the hit reality series, preventing producer the Weinstein Co. from moving the skein from Bravo to Lifetime until matters are legally settled with Bravo parent NBC Universal.

In November, Lifetime filed a copyright complaint against both NBC U and the Weinstein Co. in a move intended to shift the litigation to federal court. But rather than consolidate matters, Tuesday’s ruling by District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan splits the litigation between state and federal jurisdictions.

Sullivan didn’t throw out Lifetime’s claim that it had purchased the exclusive copyrights to “Project Runway” fair and square for $160 million. But he remanded the original suit filed by NBC U back to the state court, stating that Lifetime’s bid to change venue — launched only after the state court had filed its injunction — was “untimely.”

In applying the injunction, the Gotham court ruled that NBC U had indeed demonstrated the merit of its claim that its “right of first refusal” was violated when TWC pacted with Lifetime to move the series away from incumbent Bravo.

“NBC Universal is pleased that the federal court has rejected Lifetime’s untimely procedural maneuvering to get NBC U’s ‘Project Runway’ case out of state court, where it has always belonged and will now rightfully return,” read an NBC U statement.

Whether on the federal or state level, Lifetime — which had planned to bow season five of “Project Runway” in November — now seems to be digging in for a lengthy tussle, having already refunded the money put down on the series by advertisers during last spring’s upfront market.

“While we believe that NBC U’s lawsuit should have remained in the federal court, we will press our copyright claims through our independent lawsuit against NBC U in the federal court, and if necessary, in the NBC U suit in New York state court,” a Lifetime statement read. “We look forward to this entire matter being resolved in an expeditious manner and remain hopeful that, in the end, Lifetime will be home to ‘Project Runway.’ ”

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