While the rest of the movie-going public was pleasantly shaken and stirred by the new James Bond film, "Casino Royale," a couple of L.A. attorneys saw it and waxed nostalgic.

Partners Susan Allison and Marc Marmaro represented MGM Pictures in its bid to prevent Sony Corp. from launching its own Bond film series in 1999. Ironically, the Bond franchise and an extensive library were among the factors that made MGM appeal to Sony in 2004, when it paid $5 billion for the classic studio.

"We're very endeared to the movies and the franchise and the character as a result of the litigation," said Allison. We had to become very familiar with the characteristics of the cinematic Bond."

That spat began when Sony announced in 1997 that it had obtained rights to the 007 film franchise from Kevin McClory, who collaborated with Ian Fleming on the "Thunderbolt" story. Allison and Marmaro, representing MGM and the Albert "Cubby" Broccoli-family and their Danjaq LLC film company, sued Sony with a variety of trademark claims. A hailstorm of counterclaims followed, but MGM was granted a preliminary injunction against Sony in 1998, halting production of Sony's competing Bond. Sony and MGM settled their claims in 1999.

McClory had also sued MGM, but lost his case in a 2000 trial because he had waited decades to exercise his intellectual property rights. MGM and McClory settled later that year before an appellate trial was scheduled to take place.

"It was pretty intense, especially because there were a lot of other claims and there were summary judgments in the meantime," Allison remembers.

And what judgment does Allison render on the roguish new Bond portrayed by Daniel Craig in the Sony film?

"I thought it was great," she said.

Eclipse Finds Match

Fees, first-year salaries and profits-per-partner all hit record highs in 2006, but this year will be remembered as the year of the merger on the local legal scene.

The most recent involved Irvine-based O'Connor Christensen & McLaughlin LLP and the L.A.-based Eclipse Group LLP. On a much smaller scale than many of this year's other alliances, like the driving force behind the deal, was the intent to expand by adding services along the same lines of expertise.

The combined 13-lawyer firm will keep the Eclipse name and offer full-service intellectual property representation, handling patent and trademark prosecution, licensing, litigation of copyright infringement and antitrust issues.

The former O'Connor firm will stay in Orange County and serve as the firm's trial division and the L.A. office will be the firm's intellectual property law division.

"It has worked out even better than we expected," said Becky Christensen, managing partner of the combined firm's trial division. "There's been more crossover and synergy than we anticipated,"

Prior to the merger, Eclipse handled patent and trademark prosecution. Because that work tends to be tedious and time-consuming, many larger firms steer clear of these cases. Christensen said that she believes this provides a great opportunity for her firm, and the addition of litigation capabilities will enable the firm to retain clients through to the finish of the cases.

Christensen theorizes that another reason larger firms are passing on trademark prosecution is because of the intense competition for young lawyers with technical expertise. Her firm is able to put experienced lawyers on the cases.

"Clients don't want to pay for their lawyer to train a junior lawyer," Christensen said.

This & That

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP has donated $25,000 to Habitat for Humanity's "Operation Home Delivery" program, following a year-long fundraising effort to aid with the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region. Kelly McTigue joined O'Melveny & Myers LLP's environmental practice from Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP. Jonathan Fraser Light of Nordman Cormany Hair & Compton LLP has been sworn in as president of the Ventura County Bar Association. Joan Kessler joined ADR Services Inc.'s panel of dispute resolution professionals. She still runs her own firm, Kessler & Kessler. Richard Costigan, Gov. Schwarzenegger's former deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs secretary, has joined McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP's government affairs practice. Donna R. Black has joined Cox Castle & Nicholson LLP as senior counsel, from Morrison & Foerster LLP.

Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235, or at eyork@labusinessjournal.com .

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