Universal Wants MGM's James Bond Lawsuit Rejected As 'Patent Waste of Resources'
The Aaron Berg spy drama script "Section 6" is the target of a major studio fight.
A film about a spy confronting a diabolical madman might be an infringement of the James Bond copyright. Or maybe not. For now, Section 6 remains unproduced, and as such, Universal Pictures asked a judge on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit over what it terms, "speculation about hypothetical future works."
MGM and Danjaq, rightsholders of the Bond franchise, filed their lawsuit in April, contending that Section 6 is "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 (double-O) secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomanical villain."
That sounds like Bond, but Universal has insisted that not only will the finished product not be a Bond derivative, but also that it hasn't made a decision on whether to greenlight the script from Aaron Berg.
Following up, Universal now demands that the judge dispense with MGM's lawsuit.
"Universal moves to dismiss on the ground that the Complaint states no claims upon which relief may be granted against Universal," states the dismissal motion. "Such threadbare allegations about hypothetical future infringement in works yet to be produced are simply not actionable. Were Universal to revise the Screenplay and produce a motion picture that infringed the Bond Works, all of Plaintiffs' rights and remedies under the Copyright Act would remain available to them. At this early date, however, a revised script has not even been completed, let alone approved for production. It would be a patent waste of resources for the parties and the Court to entertain this action at such a premature stage."
Separately, Berg himself also wants the lawsuit tossed. The writer makes the case that the works aren't substantially similar and that any similarities are scenes a faire. Berg's dismissal motion also argues that MGM is going too far with its notions of what is protectable.
"Plaintiffs argue that the villains in the Bond Works and the Screenplay are substantially similar because both involve a 'diabolical madman' who seeks world domination," states Berg's motion. "However, this description can be applied to almost any bad guy in any action movie, particularly a spy thriller, and is nothing more than a stock character or scenes a faire for a spy drama."
Here is Berg's entire motion to dismiss, and good luck divining what Section 6 features. Berg's legal papers are so heavily redacted with secrets, they might as well as come out of a spy agency.
Universal is represented by Bert Fields and Aaron Moss at Greenberg Glusker. Berg is represented by David Aronoff at Lathrop & Gage. MGM and Danjaq are represented by Robert Schwartz at O'Melveny & Myers.
Schwartz gave us this reaction to the motions to dismiss:
"Universal acts as if the intellectual property laws don't apply inside the studio lot. Universal paid money to option a screenplay that rampantly infringes Danjaq and MGM's James Bond copyrights. It then used that infringing screenplay to hire a lead actor and a director to turn it into a movie. Universal thinks it has a free pass to keep working with our intellectual property for as long as it wants, and that there's nothing Danjaq, MGM, or the Court can do about it because Universal says it's still trying to fix it. That's not the law. Danjaq and MGM are entitled to stop this now."