I'm sure this happens to a lot of writers - ever work for weeks or months on a great new story idea, only to go to the theatre and see a trailer for a film with that exact same premise? That's got to be one of the most frustrating things for a creative person because you know you didn't steal that idea, but now your innovative concept is going to look like a rip-off and probably will have a much harder time finding a buyer.
A few years ago, my roommate and I were spitballing ideas and eventually came up with a clever comedy premise that could have been either a movie or a comic book. As I recall, since the premise was mostly his idea, he was the one who got to run with it, and though it wasn't an active project, he often came up with new gags for the eventual script. Then, about a year or so later, I was reading the latest comic book news at Newsarama, only to run across a feature article on a miniseries with that EXACT SAME PREMISE. That would have been bad enough, but I went out and bought the comic, hoping to reassure myself that they were significantly different so as to not make our idea a ripoff.
As it turned out, the hook was the same, but the main plot was totally different. Unfortunately, the tone and the style of the writing was so similar to my roommate's that had I not been the one to discover the comic, he easily could have dropped it in my lap and made a convincing case that it was written by him under a pen name.
I've also had some of my ideas end up as episodes of Dollhouse, as well as a spec script that has been in development with a major director for a while. Since there's a chance that project will still fall through, I'll keep quiet about specifics. There was also the time I was at lunch with a friend, and tossed out a high concept logline for what could be an HBO series. My friend, an aspiring comedy writer, agreed it was funny and for a while it sounded like we might develop it.
A few weeks later he shot me an email, informing me that one of his friends who worked in comedy at NBC had been on a conference call and heard about a project that had been pitched using the exact same logline as ours. Knowing that if this thing went to series, our idea would be dead in the water, we decided to abandon it. However, it's been a few years and has failed to surface so maybe we'll revisit it soon.
Has this ever happened to you? Does anyone have any really funny horror stories of getting "ripped off" after pouring blood, sweat and tears into your work?