Lifetime Makes Federal Case Out of 'Project Runway'

The court battle over "Project Runway" has become even more complicated, with Lifetime applying to move the lawsuit to federal court.

The cable network says the suit should be moved because "any issue relating to Lifetime's exclusive right to air future cycles of 'Project Runway' is a matter of federal copyright law and therefore should be heard by a federal court." NBC Universal, whose Bravo network has aired the previous five seasons of "Runway," won an injunction from a New York state judge last month to stop the move to Lifetime.

NBC Universal's suit claims that the Weinstein Co., which produces the fashion-design series, breached its contract by taking the show to Lifetime and not giving Bravo a right of first refusal to future seasons. A New York judge agreed in late September, granting a preliminary injunction that bars Lifetime from airing the sixth season of "Project Runway" as well as any possible spinoffs from the show.

Lifetime wasn't named in the suit, but it filed for the move to federal court because the outcome of the case has a direct impact on the network.

NBC Universal objected to the move, saying in a statement that it will "vigorously fight" Lifetime's action and file papers to keep the case in a New York court.

At stake is one of the best-known brands on cable TV. "Project Runway" averaged 3.6 million viewers per week in its fifth season, the best mark ever for the show, and about two-thirds of those viewers fell into the desirable adults 18-49 demographic. The injunction allows production on season six of the show to continue, but until the legal tangle is resolved there's no way of saying when it might air.