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Man claims 'Idol' was his idea, sues Fox


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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- An entertainment company owner who specializes in televised talent competitions has filed a lawsuit against the Fox Television Network and the producers of the popular show "American Idol," claiming the show's concept was his idea.

Harry Keane filed the suit -- which alleges copyright and trademark infringement and misappropriation of his work -- in U.S. District Court Wednesday, said his lawyer, Ryan Bormaster.

In the suit, Keane seeks a temporary restraining order against the program and its assets, and asks that it stop airing immediately.

Next week is the final week of competition in the second season of "American Idol," which is now down to two contestants, Clay Aiken, 24, of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Ruben Studdard, 25, of Birmingham, Alabama.

Also named in the suit are two production companies involved in the show, 19TV and Freemantle Media; the show's creator, Simon Fuller; and Simon Cowell, the prickly judge whose record label gives a recording contract to the winner.

Keane's suit alleges that he came up with the idea for a show called "American Idol" in 1994 when he lived in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Bormaster said his client's proposals for the program included the entire production from concept to broadcast, including the initial national auditions of talent to the final 13-week television series, where celebrity judges and the viewing audience would vote on the final 20 contestants each week.

The proposal also included a voting system with viewers casting their ballots by telephone or the Internet.

The lawsuit says Keane applied for a copyright on the concept and even the stage design for his show in 1997, and then began sending out his proposals to investors and producers.

Bormaster said one of those proposals was sent to Fuller's company, Freemantle Media North America, Inc., and Thames Television, a Freemantle subsidiary.

The suit claims that Thames Television, under the guidance of Fuller and Cowell, produced the program in England in 2001, calling it "Pop Idol."

The show began on the Fox network in the United States in the summer of 2002, with the name "American Idol."

Bormaster said Keane didn't file the suit earlier because he wasn't aware of the show in Britain, and after the American version came out, he had to get his paperwork in order.

"He was moving around and didn't have his papers together," the attorney said of Keane, who now lives in Irving, Texas.

"When he saw the show... he saw his work on air," Bormaster said.

Fox and Freemantle Media did not immediately return calls for comment.

-- CNN's Karen Bonsignore contributed to this report.


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