The London-based creator of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has accused Walt Disney of cutting him out of profits from its US version of the game show.
The British quiz format has been broadcast in 106 countries
Paul Smith's company Celador International produced a US version of the show with Disney and subsidiaries ABC and Buena Vista Television in 1999.
He claims the three firms manipulated costs to keep the series "at prices well below the fair market value".
Mr Smith is suing all three firms for undisclosed damages.
Celador went into partnership with the Disney-owned companies to produce and distribute an initial one-hour episode and half-hour syndicated versions of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? for North America.
The show has been broadcast in 106 countries since its British version was first shown in 1998.
Hosted by veteran presenter Regis Philbin, the US version put ABC on top of the TV ratings for each night it ran.
It continued to draw an average of 29 million viewers per night during its 1999 to 2000 season, but ratings for the show collapsed in 2001.
Mr Smith accused Disney of arranging "sweetheart deals" with ABC and Buena Vista to cut Celador out of profits.
He alleges Disney unlawfully interfered in the joint venture by pressuring ABC and Buena Vista to hike production costs and to refuse to renegotiate licensing fees for better terms.
"In essence, Disney sits on both sides of the bargaining table in any negotiation for the production and distribution rights to the series, thereby enabling it to manipulate negotiations in any way that serves its corporate interests," Celador said.
Its legal action, filed at Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, also seeks to protect the rights of Lusam Music, which created the theme music for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Celador claims Disney used the series music without permission in its theme park attractions.
A Disney spokesman did not comment on the action.