MGM spies Sony move

Seeks to block Bond development

MGM/UA lawyers are demanding that Sony stop development of its new James Bond script — a script that Sony claims it knows nothing about.

MGM, whose United Artists unit has been 007’s home for the majority of the screen spy’s 35-year espionage career, filed papers Monday in federal court requesting a preliminary injunction ordering Sony to suspend suspected 007 script development efforts until after the court determines legal rights relating to Bond.

Sony and MGM have been embroiled in legal battles since November, when MGM filed a suit challenging Sony’s right to develop its own Bond films and asking for millions in damages. An MGM spokesman said Sony doesn’t have legal clearance to begin developing its Bond films until after the courts rule on that earlier lawsuit — something that’s not likely to happen for several months, until later this year, or next year.

“But during the discovery, we unearthed that Sony may be in the process of developing the movie faster than we thought,” said David Johnson, senior executive vice president and general counsel for MGM. “This asks the judge to enjoin them from taking further steps.”

Johnson declined to describe the specific details that led MGM to conclude that Sony was developing a Bond film, saying the information brought to light during the legal discovery process was confidential.

Sony’s legal rep dismissed MGM’s latest legal maneuver.

‘No new facts’

“There’s nothing new here at all — no new facts, no new circumstances,” said Lou Meissinger, Sony’s attorney in the Bond battle. “It is highly improbable that a court is going to intervene on an emergency basis to issue this preliminary injunction.”

A source close to Sony denied the existence of 007 script development, and said no writer had been hired to pen such a screenplay.

Meissinger added, however, that since no injunctions had been handed down in the case, Sony was within its rights to develop a script if it so chose.

Johnson said MGM legal strategists hoped this week’s injunction plea may speed the progress of their primary 007 lawsuit toward a definitive court hearing. MGM said its ownership of the Bond property is protected under copyright and trademark laws.

“Our legal argument is the same as it has always been,” Johnson said. MGM/UA has maintained claims of its co-ownership of the Bond franchise with Danjaq Llc., the film company formed by longtime 007 producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.

Sony asserts claim

In February, Sony filed its official answer to the MGM challenge, asserting its own legal claim through its association with producer Kevin McClory, who had collaborated with Bond novel author Ian Fleming in 1959 and 1960 to create scripts and treatments for 007 movies.

The James Bond action-adventure franchise has been UA’s most enduring and valuable property. The studio has released 18 of the 20 Bond films, including the recent Bond smashes, “Goldeneye” and “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Warner Bros. produced one Bond pic, “Never Say Never Again,” in 1983. Sony in 1967 released the spoof Bond film “Casino Royale.”