The Spanish producer of a time travel series claims in a federal copyright infringement lawsuit that NBC’s upcoming “Timeless” is a ripoff of their show.
The series is set to debut on Oct. 3. A press screening of one of the episodes is scheduled on the Sony lot on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, claims that Onza Partners, producers of the Spanish series “El Ministerio del Tiempo” contend that their storyline was stolen for “Timeless,” in which a trio travels through time to try to stop a criminal trying to alter the course of history.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the “production and/or distribution (in any form or medium whatsoever) of any episodes” of “Timeless,” including the pilot. But the producers are not filing a separate application for a temporary restraining order to immediately halt the series, a spokesman for their attorneys said.
Onza says that they contacted the Gersh Agency’s Roy Ashton to put together an American version of the project. According to the lawsuit, that led them to writer-producers Eric Kripke and Ben Edlund. The lawsuit contends that Ashton discussed the series with Edlund, Kripke, and Sony, and allowed them to view the original series DVD.
Representatives working for Onza then began negotiating with Sony on a deal in July, 2015, according to the lawsuit, and even exchanged deal proposals. But on Aug. 26, 2015, Deadline published a release that Kripke and Shawn Ryan were producing a TV pilot titled “Time,” later retitled “Timeless,” for NBC. Also attached to the project was John Davis.
“Oddly, at the moment of the August 26, 2015 publication of the Deadline [r]elease, Sony abruptly and without any warning terminated all negotiations relative to Onza’s American version,” the lawsuit claims.
The suit contends that its attorney, David Tenzer, contacted Sony attorneys, one of whom eventually responded that they didn’t “feel that our project violates your client’s rights.”
Sony, Kripke, Ryan, Davis, and NBCUniversal are among those named as defendants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims copyright infringement and breach of implied contract. Sony had no comment on the suit.
The lawsuit claims “numerous similarities” between the two shows, including that the antagonist is a suspected double agent. It also points to the presence of a three person team of one woman and two men. In both, the woman has “an academic background (with unorthodox elements) and knowledge of historical accuracy helpful — or crucial — to carrying out the given missions.”
Onza is represented by Devin McRae and Michael Smarinsky of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae.