Commercial television network ITV is being sued by Atkins Thomson Solicitors on behalf of a reality TV star who claims he came up with the concept for reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex (Towie).
Partner Graham Atkins has lodged a claim in the High Court on behalf of Big Brother winner Brian Belo, Sassy Films and Massive Television. Belo alleges that he came up with the idea for Towie and it was copied by ITV2 without his permission.
Atkins, who has instructed Ed Brown of Essex Court, said his client claims that he made a pilot episode called Totally Essex in 2007 – three years before Towie was screened – and that he pitched it to Lime Pictures.
The claim form states that Lime Pictures then went ahead without him and turned it into a show for ITV2 under a different name.
Belo is seeking unspecified damages, Atkins said. “We can’t put a figure on it yet,” he added. “There are rumours about how much they’ve made from the programme and we’ll see when we have a look through the papers.
“This has been going on for some time now, it’s taken about nine months to get together since we were first instructed.
“These cases are notoriously difficult to win, but we’ve offered it on a no-win-no-fee [conditional-fee arrangement] basis which reflects how confident we are.”
In the court papers, it is alleged that there was an infringement of copyright and “breach of confidence”.
Belo also claims that ITV has “reproduced or adapted part of a format that he created”.
Atkins said that the suggestion of the show being pulled off the air if the legal action is successful, is “just speculation”.
Lime Pictures and ITV have instructed Brabners Chaffe Street partner Mark Manley with IP and media silk John Baldwin QC of 8 New Square acting as counsel.
Lime Pictures and ITV issued a joint statement that said: “The Only Way Is Essex is an original concept created and developed by an award-winning team at Lime Pictures.
“Brian Belo’s claim against Lime and ITV is totally without foundation and will be vigorously defended.
“The creative team at Lime Pictures is very proud of Towie, and the notion that it was not entirely their own work is a serious allegation which is completely refuted.”
No date has been set for a hearing.