Pop moguls fall out over copycat show claims

In the greatest battle of the moguls since the days of Akbar the Great, Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls' Svengali, yesterday declared war on his former ally, Simon Cowell, the self-styled sultan of swing.

In the greatest battle of the moguls since the days of Akbar the Great, Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls' Svengali, yesterday declared war on his former ally, Simon Cowell, the self-styled sultan of swing.

The pair had once worked closely together to turn Pop Idol, the ITV talent contest for wannabe musical artistes, into an international phenomenon. The spin-off American Idol made Cowell into a household name across the United States.

But while Cowell, a judge on the programme, became famous for his withering critiques of contestants, it was Fuller whose 19 TV company held the rights to the show.

Yesterday, in a split between the pair, 19 TV said that it was taking legal action against Cowell's firms Simco and Syco. Fuller believes that Cowell's new Saturday night show for ITV1, X Factor, is based on the format of Pop Idol and he is suing for breach of contract and breach of copyright. A spokesman for 19 TV said: "19 TV will be pressing for a speedy trial to resolve the matters as swiftly as is possible."

Staff at 19 were furious after watching the first transmission of X Factor on Saturday. The company instructed lawyers Harbottle & Lewis who have identified 35 visible similarities between the new show and Pop Idol.

X Factor has been made by the independent television company FremantleMedia, which worked alongside 19 TV on Pop Idol.

FremantleMedia yesterday denied that the two programme formats were the same.

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