Since 1962, James Bond has battled criminal conglomorates, men with golden guns, and this guy. But his latest tussle might find him on unfamiliar terrain: the courtroom.
MGM and NBC Universal are at odds over a film project the former claims infringes on MGM's legendary James Bond franchise. The NBC Universal project in question, Section 6, is set during World War I and centers around the formation of Britain's secret intelligence service, formally known as Military Intelligence, Section 6 but known to cinephiles and anglophiles alike as MI-6. To MGM, this world sounds suspiciously like the one where Commander Bond hangs, or rather tosses, his hat. In their suit, the studio claims that a project based upon 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 a megalomaniacal villain" would immediately bring to mind James Bond amongst consumers. The two sides had been in dispute for months over the potential project before MGM learned that NBC Universal had acquired the rights to a screenplay, prompting MGM to quickly send a letter to their competitor.
For its part, NBC Universal is claiming that no decisions have even been to move forward with the project, and that they have no intent to violate MGM's copyright. But the studio is reported to have hired a director and four producers, as well as cast a lead actor for the prospective film. In their complaint, MGM states that they asked to see a version of the screenplay, but were refused, bolstering MGM's claim that NBC Universal is "continuing to develop a screenplay that constitutes an unauthorized derivative work based upon plaintiffs' copyrighted James Bond works." In the suit's first action, the presiding judge has denied MGM's motion for expedited discovery.
This isn't the first instance of MGM taking legal action to defend the Bond franchise. In 1994 they took Honda to court over a commercial the car maker produced featuring a situation and characters evocative of a James Bond film, complete with an over-the-top archvillain. It would appear that when it comes to protecting the hallmark spy franchise of feature films, the MGM legal team has the same dedication to mission as Mr. Bond, if not his wit.