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Timeless - Creators Being Sued

A Spanish company is suing Sony, NBCUniversal and Timeless creators Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke, claiming that they pilfered the idea for NBC’s new time-travel drama. Onza Entertainment claims the series was “ripped off” from its copyrighted formatEl Ministerio del Teimpo (The Department of Time), for which the company says it was in negotiations with Sony to produce an American version.

The suit says the Spanish format “relates to the adventures of a three-person government team (consisting of one woman and two men) traveling through time to thwart undesired changes to past events.” NBC’s series stars Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett as, per the logline, “an unexpected team — a scientist, soldier and history professor — who must use the machine’s prototype to travel back in time to critical events.” The Peacock’s series premieres October 3.

Sony and NBC told Deadline they don’t comment on pending litigation. Word is that the studio was aware of the lawsuit but had not seen it.

The 19-page lawsuit, filed today in U.S. District Court for Central California (read it here), claims that Onza principal Gonzalo Sagardia took the format to MIP-TV in April 2015. It says that Onza execs met there with Gersh partner and head of TV lit Roy Ashton for help in getting an American version of The Department of Time off the ground. The suit says Sagardia gave Ashton a DVD of his show “on the understanding that (a) if Ashton liked the Original Series, he and Gersh would use their United States contacts to assist Onza in putting together a deal for Onza’s development and exhibition of an American Version, and (b) [the DVD] would be used for no other purposes whatsoever. In particular, Ashton mentioned that the American television writers/producers Ben Edlund and [Kripke] … might be perfect as showrunners for Onza’s American Version.”

Onza then hired reps to negotiate for an American version of the format, the suit claims, and they “several email communications” with Ashton. The suit claims the Gersh partner “specifically informed Sagardia that Ashton knew that Ben Edlund had discussed the Original Series with [Kripke].” Talks went into late-July 2015, when Sony agreed to produce the show and gave terms including an 18-month option.

Just days before its series premiere, Timeless is facing an untimely copyright lawsuit in California federal court.

"[I]t was understood by all concerned that any persons or entities being given access by Ashton or Gersh to the Original Series DVD ... would be given such access solely for the purpose of assisting Onza in developing and exploiting Onza’s American Version," states the complaint filed by attorney Devin McRae. "While precise financial terms relative to any American Version were to be worked out among Onza and the other parties brought into the deal by Gersh, no American Version was to be made without Onza’s consent."

By July, Onza claims, Ashton had brought on Sony and writers Ben Edlund and Eric Kripke and negotiations were underway. The next month, though, news broke of the series — with no mention of Onza — and "Sony abruptly and without any warning terminated all negotiations relative to Onza’s American Version."

Onza is suing NBC, Sony, Kripke and others for copyright infringement and is also suing Sony and Kripke for breach of implied contract.

Representatives for Timeless did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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