McClory was a no-show – apparently U.S. visa problems kept him on the Isle of Man – but U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that McClory had delayed too long in bringing his suit alleging that he is the co-creator with Ian Fleming of the cinematic Bond.
Rafeedie then dismissed the case on the ground of laches – a legal term for excessive delay – without proceeding to a jury trial on McClory`s copyright claims.
MGM attorney Pierce O`Donnell said the ruling was “a total vindication” for the studio. McClory`s attorneys declined comment.
Briefly outlining the 40-year history of Bond litigation, Rafeedie pointed out that there have been at least three major lawsuits involving McClory and the Bond rights, but that it was not until 1997 that McClory alleged he was the co-owner of the Bond character.
In 1997, Sony announced it had purchased McClory`s Bond rights and would use them as the basis for a competing Bond franchise. MGM promptly sued, and that phase of the case ended in March 1999 with a settlement that put Sony out of the Bond business. But McClory vowed to press on, and the current trial is the tail end of MGM`s suit against Sony.
Rafeedie found last week that McClory had delayed at least 36 years in bringing his claim of Bond ownership despite numerous opportunities to do so.
Rafeedie also found that MGM and the other defendants had been”prejudiced” (damaged) by the delay because virtually all the witnesses who could “potentially help untangle McClory`s web of allegations and intrigue are long dead.”
The lengthy list included Fleming himself; Richard Maibaum, the original Bond scriptwriter; and producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Rafeedie also noted the severe economic prejudice to MGM and the producer if McClory were now allowed to claim profits. He also found that there was no willful copyright infringement that would overcome a defense of laches.
Is this really the end of the James Bond sideshow?
Although Rafeedie`s ruling seems conclusive, as the expression goes, “Never Say Never Again.”