MGM Wins First Round Against Universal in Lawsuit Over 'James Bond Knockoff'

A judge denies Universal's motion to dismiss a lawsuit over 'Section 6,' which is still in early development

Universal Pictures has failed in its first attempt to get a California federal judge to toss MGM’s lawsuit over the Aaron Berg-scripted spy film project, Section 6.

MGM and Danjaq, rights-holders of the lucrative James Bond franchise, brought the lawsuit in April and labeled Section 6 as a “James Bond knockoff.”

In response, Universal contended that the “picture in question has not been ‘green lit,’ i.e., no decision has yet been made whether actually to produce it.” The studio said that for the court to examine alleged copyright infringement at this early stage would be a “patent waste of resources” and demanded that the lawsuit be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge James Otero has denied the motion, though his order is currently under seal so his reasoning isn’t immediately clear.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs described Universal’s project as “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.”

However, a good amount of details about what Section 6 actually is, has been filed under seal. It has been reported to be about the early days of the British spy outfit MI-6.

In seeking dismissal, Universal argued “threadbare allegations about hypothetical future infringement in works yet to be produced are simply not actionable.”

If Judge Otero has rejected that assessment, he wouldn’t be the first.

In February, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee allowed a case to move forward involving competing projects by Warner Bros. and Universal to develop a new film version of Dungeons & Dragons. Although Warner Bros. wasn’t directly a defendant in the case, the judge ruled that the creation of a script was ‘intermediate copying’ and that the script could violate copyright law “even in the absence of a final script or film.” The litigants in that battle — Hasbro and Sweetpea Entertainment — just wrapped up a bench trial with a ruling set to come sometime later this year.

When Judge Otero’s ruling on Section 6 becomes available, we’ll post it here.

Twitter: @eriqgardner