The Comcast-owned heavyweight may have lost round one of the studio Bond battle with MGM and 007 producer Danjaq, but they were firing from the legal trenches today. “Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is the desperate attempt of a rival studio to misuse its copyrights in order to kill a competitor’s project before it even gets off the ground,” said the answer Tuesday by Universal to the copyright infringement lawsuit from the duo that was first filed by MGM and Danjaq back on April 3. Universal’s attempt to have the matter dismissed in late May was rejected by federal Judge James Otero in late September. “The similarities are sufficient to give rise to a claim for copyright infringement,” said Judge Otero in his recently released but heavily redacted decision. Today’s filing is another attempt to kick that can – from another angle so to speak.
In their filing this spring, MGM and Danjaq claimed that Universal’s Section 6 project was a “James Bond knockoff.” They want unspecified damages from the WW1-set Aaron Berg-scripted pic about the forming of the British Intelligence agency. The studio and the producer also want the court to declare an injunction shutting down the property that Joe Cornish was brought on board to helm. Since then it has been back and forth like harsher than usual office repartee between Bond and Miss Moneypenny. Now Universal has answered with another call to close this action down.
“Plaintiffs were repeatedly informed before filing their complaint that the screenplay at issue would not be the basis of any motion picture that might ultimately be produced, and that the screenplay Universal acquired would be substantially revised to eliminate any potentially objectionable elements,” says the blunt filing from lawyers Bert Fields, Aaron Moss and Daniel Stone of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP (read it here).
“But Plaintiffs’ goal is not to prevent the infringement of the James Bond works, the 19-page document adds. “They are instead intent on scaring away Universal and any other would-be competitors, thereby gaining a monopoly on the British spy genre. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is a patent waste of resources for the parties and the Court. It is also antithetical to copyright law, which only protects concrete expression, not abstract ideas, and was never intended to be used as a sword to prevent lawful competition.”
Universal’s lawyers want MGM and Danjaq to “take nothing by their Complaint” and “that each and every purported claim for relief set forth in the Compliant be dismissed with prejudice.”
With a very very successful franchise and a potential franchise at stake here, no one looks to be backing down into settlementland on this one. Let’s see how MGM and Danjaq’s lawyers respond to the response.
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.