Court upholds ruling that producer waited too long to assert rights

A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit by producer Kevin McClory that sought a share of profits from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s James Bond franchise.

McClory’s suit against MGM and production company Danjaq Prods. claimed he was the co-creator of the cinematic James Bond character.

The ruling Monday from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court ruling last year that also dismissed the lawsuit, on the grounds that McClory waited too long to assert rights to the Bond character — more than 35 years.

The appeals court ruling apparently brings to an end nearly 40 years of legal wrangling involving McClory over ownership of Bond material.

In the late 1950s, McClory collaborated with author Ian Fleming on a script of “Thunderball” and in a 1963 settlement to a lawsuit between the two men, McClory obtained some rights to the story. McClory’s rights were the basis for both “Thunderball” and its remake, “Never Say Never Again.”

Things heated up again in 1997 when Sony paid $2 million for McClory’s “Thunderball” rights and announced it would begin a competing Bond franchise under the theory that McClory was co-owner of the Bond character. Until then, no one had claimed McClory’s rights could be the basis for an entire Bond franchise.

MGM immediately sued, and acrimonious litigation involving a countersuit ensued, which resulted in a 1999 settlement under which Sony gave up all claims to the Bond character. McClory, however, as a party to the lawsuits, decided to press ahead on his own.

His suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie in March of last year, and that dismissal was upheld by the appeals court on Monday.

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