The same day the case over who owns sequel rights to Dungeons & Dragons wrapped, the case over the alleged “James Bond knockoff” received the go-ahead to continue. In a sealed order, a federal judge is denying the motion by Universal to toss the multi-claim copyright infringement Section 6 lawsuit from MGM and Bond producer Danjaq. The order, from Judge James Otero, was dated September 23 but filed on Wednesday. A July 28 hearing on the matter was vacated later that month by the court, and Otero made his decision based on the materials of the case so far.
In their late May motion to dismiss the action, the Comcast-owned studio said MGM and Danjaq’s case was based on “threadbare allegations about hypothetical future infringement in works yet to be produced.” Otero obviously disagreed. We’ll know why when his order is unsealed.
MGM and Danjaq’s initial April 3 complaint cited what they say are the remarkable similarities between their man with a license to kill and the Aaron Berg-scripted project about the formation of the British intelligence service MI6 in the early years of the 20th century. “This lawsuit concerns a motion picture project, in active development, featuring a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by ‘His Majesty’s Secret Service,’ with a ‘license to kill,’ and a 00 secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomaniacal villain,” the heavily censored filing said. “Most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond picture. It does not.” Berg is also named as a defendant in the case.
Lobbing back, Universal’s May 27 motion to dismiss cast a wider net on what it saw as the real aim of the action. “In an effort to claim an unfounded monopoly on the British spy genre, and to scare away Universal and any other would-be competitors to James Bond, Plaintiffs rushed to file this needless action,” read the filing from Hollywood power lawyer Bert Fields and Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP partner Aaron Moss.
Even as production on the next Bond flick gets ready to kick into gear, Universal claimed in a filing April 11 that while director Joe Cornish was brought on board back in March, the Section 6 pic wasn’t actually a formal go. The studio claimed the project was in the dawn stages of development and would not infringe on the 007 copyrights in any way when the script was in its final form. Needless to say, MGM and Danjaq aren’t buying that.
So, as one trial ends in one case where Universal is also a player on the sidelines, expect another trial to be penciled in soon.
Robert Schwartz, Cassandra Seto, and Brian Finkelstein of LA’s O’Melveny & Myers are representing plaintiffs in this case as is Marc Becker of LA firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.