By Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The actor Hayden Christensen, known for his starring role in the Star Wars movies, can pursue a lawsuit charging that USA Network improperly used his ideas for its own television show, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The ruling revives a lawsuit brought by Christensen, his brother Tove and Forest Park Pictures in which they claim the network must pay them because it developed a series similar to one the plaintiffs pitched to USA in 2005.
The Forest Park series, billed as a "comedic drama," was called "Housecall." It dealt with a doctor who moved to the beach community of Malibu, California, where he tends to rich patients.
Four years later, USA launched a show called "Royal Pains" which had a similar premise - a doctor making house calls to the rich and famous - but was set in the Hamptons, the summer playground for wealthy New Yorkers, according to a three-judge panel at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Forest Park was not told the show was being made, nor was it paid for the ideas behind the show, the court said.
"USA Network used the ideas embodied in those written works," the judges said, finding that Forest Park had entered into a contract with USA that "included an implied promise to pay."
A spokesman for NBC Universal, Cory Shields, said: "The claim is totally without merit and we expect to prevail after all the evidence is presented."
USA Network is part of Comcast Corp's NBC Universal.
The case was sent back to U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan, who had ruled in USA's favor last year, finding the plaintiffs claims were preempted by federal copyright law.
Christensen, 31, played Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."
(Reporting By Basil Katz; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Eric Walsh)