Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer v. American Honda Motor Co.
900 F. Supp. 1287 (C.D. Cal. 1995)
David V. Kenyon, District Judge
This case arises out of Plaintiffs Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's and Danjaq's claim that Defendants
American Honda Motor Co. and its advertising agency Rubin Postaer and Associates, violated
Plaintiffs' "copyrights to sixteen James Bond films and the exclusive intellectual property rights to
the James Bond character and the James Bond films" through Defendants' recent commercial for its
Honda del Sol automobile.
Premiering last October 1994, Defendants' "Escape" commercial features a young, well-dressed
couple in a Honda del Sol being chased by a high-tech helicopter. A grotesque villain with metal-
jumps out of the helicopter onto the car's roof, threatening harm. With a flirtatious
turn to his companion, the male driver deftly releases the Honda's detachable roof (which Defen-
dants claim is the main feature allegedly highlighted by the commercial), sending the villain into
space and effecting the couple's speedy get-away.
Plaintiffs move to enjoin Defendants' commercial pending a final trial on the merits, and Defen-
dants move for summary judgment.
II. Factual Background
In 1992, Honda's advertising agency Rubin Postaer came up with a new concept to sell the
Honda del Sol convertible with its detachable rooftop. For what was to become the commercial at
issue, Rubin Postaer vice-president Gary Yoshida claims that he was initially inspired by the climax
scene in "Aliens," wherein the alien is ejected from a spaceship still clinging onto the spacecraft's
door. From there, Yoshida and coworker Robert Coburn began working on the storyboards for the
"Escape" commercial. As the concept evolved into the helicopter chase scene, it acquired various
project names, one of which was "James Bob," which Yoshida understood to be a play on words for
James Bond. Yoshida Depo. at 45. In addition, David Spyra, Honda's National Advertising Man-
ager, testified the same way, gingerly agreeing that he understood "James Bob to be a pun on the
name James Bond."
While the commercial was initially approved by Honda in May 1992, it was put on hold because
of financing difficulties. Actual production for the commercial did not begin until after July 8, 1994,
when Honda reapproved the concept. Defendants claim that, after the initial May 1992 approval,
they abandoned the "James Bob" concept, whiting out "James" from the title on the commercial's
storyboards because of the implied reference to "James Bond." However, Plaintiffs dispute this as-
sertion, pointing to the fact that when casting began on the project in the summer of 1994, the cast-
Defense counsel argued at the hearing that the villain's arms were normal and merely gloved. The Court's
review of the commercial indicates that at the very least, the gloves contained some sort of metal in them as
indicated by the scraping and clanging sounds made by the villain as he tries to get into, and hold onto, the