Latest 'Runway' Snag: Original Suit Returns To New York Court


The original lawsuit in the legal mess that has stalled future turns for Project Runway is now headed back to New York State Supreme Court.

In the first of a wave of litigation surrounding the $200 million deal to move the hit reality show from Bravo to Lifetime Television, NBCU in April sued the show’s producer The Weinstein Co. for breach of contract in shfiting the show to the women’s-targeted network.

In September, New York State Court Judge Richard Lowe issued a preliminary injunction to halt Runway’s migration. But a month later, Lifetime had the case moved to federal court, citing that it was a copyright matter, which falls under federal jurisdiction.

Today, District Judge Richard Sullivan of the U.S. Court, Southern District of New York, remanded the case back to New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

After hearing oral arguments on Dec. 18, Sullivan wrote in his Dec. 23 decision that Lifetime chose to "delay its intervention in the state court action for strategic considerations. While Lifetime was perfectly entitled to adopt a strategy of waiting on the sidelines until it felt its position was strengthened by the recordation of its interests, it cannot now, having been unfavorably impacted by the state court's ruling, avoid the consequences of its strategic decision.”

For its part, NBCU issued the following statement: "NBC Universal is pleased that the Federal Court has rejected Lifetime's untimely procedural maneuvering to get NBCU's Project Runway case out of State Court, where it has always belonged and will now rightfully return."

Lifetime countered with a statement of its own: "While we believe that NBCU's lawsuit should have remained in the federal court, we will press our copyright claims through our independent lawsuit against NBCU in the federal court, and if necessary, in the NBCU suit in New York State court.  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.

Sullivan’s ruling does not impact the federal jurisdiction of the countersuit Lifetime filed against NBCU Bravo and The Weinstein Co. in November seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction declaring Lifetime the exclusive licensee of Project Runway.

The show’s move to Lifetime was originally set for November before the legal wrangling began. Much of the show’s sixth campaign has already been filmed.