NBCUniversal Must Face MGM Claims of James Bond Knockoff

NBCUniversal must face a lawsuit by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and the producers of the James Bond franchise that a screenplay for a movie in development, “Section 6,” is an Agent 007 knockoff.

U.S. District Judge James Otero in Los Angeles yesterday denied NBCUniversal’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, according to a docket entry in the case. The ruling itself was sealed.

MGM and Danjaq LLC said in their lawsuit filed in April that NBCUniversal was developing a movie that featured a tuxedo-clad British secret service agent with a license to kill and other characteristics identical to those of James Bond. Closely held MGM is seeking a court order halting any infringement.

The James Bond franchise is among Hollywood’s most enduring. Twenty-four films dating to 1963’s “Dr. No” have grossed $1.91 billion in U.S. theaters, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, an industry researcher. The most recent, 2012’s “Skyfall,” took in $304.4 million domestically.

NBCUniversal said in a July 11 court filing that MGM’s lawsuit was extraordinary and needless because, if the studio were to make the movie, it would substantially revise writer Aaron Berg’s screenplay.

“If Universal ever decides to make the movie, and plaintiffs claim that even the revised screenplay infringes, there would be something to argue about, and the case can then be filed,” the studio said in the filing.

Representatives of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast Corp., didn’t immediately respond to e-mail messages yesterday seeking comment on the ruling.

Protecting Bond

“MGM and Danjaq are pleased that the court rejected Universal’s and Berg’s assertion that their Section 6 screenplay is not substantially similar to the James Bond works,” Robert Schwartz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail. “We will continue to take all steps necessary to protect our rights in the James Bond property.”

The case is Danjaq LLC v. Universal City Studios LLC, 14-cv-02527, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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