Case closed – German court denies name change to “James Bond”

German court denied a man’s appeal to have his name legally changed to “James Bond”

Agreed, the name James Bond is legendary. However, when author Ian Fleming created his literary hero in 1953 and thus laid the groundwork for a British icon, he simply took the dullest name he could find. It was that of American ornithologist James Bond whose book “Birds of the West Indies” was in the bookshelf of Fleming’s villa in Jamaica.

“I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find,” Fleming once remarked. Over the years, the name lost some of its dullness and when Bond made the transition to the cinema screen in 1962, it quickly became a global synonym for action and adventure. Nevertheless, Bond is among the most common English names you can find.

James Bond in court

In May 2017, the story of a man who wanted his name legally changed to James Bond had made headlines in Germany.

In August 2014, he had applied for the name change at his local municipality. A medical report, stating that the man would only react when being addressed as James Bond, was supposed to support the application.

In addition, several attending physicians had endorsed it. The municipality however denied the name change after which the applicant filed a lawsuit following unsuccesful objection proceedings.

At this point, you rightfully ask for the reasons behind the sought after name change. The applicant had claimed that family problems were the reason for his application and that he considered it unacceptable to continue bearing his family name. Therefore, he had already legally changed his name in the United Kingdom without difficulties in legal relations.

After both the Administrative Court and the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatine had refused legal aid to the applicant, the action was ultimately dismissed by the Administrative Court. According to the judge, changing the first and last name to James Bond was not justified by having family problems. In so far as the applicant claims that his uncle and his family offended and flooded him with criminal charges, it was not comprehensible that the family conflicts could be resolved by adopting another name.

In addition, the court ruled that James Bond is a name in film and literature. Even in combination with the applicant’s first name, this name would always be associated with the figure of the British secret agent invented by Ian Fleming. In view of the above, the name change could not be granted irrespective of whether it was indicated from the medical point of view.

The legal aspect

The German law regulates name changes in §1 Namensänderungsgesetz (Law for the changing of names). Mainly, a name change applies to case groups such as possibility of confusion because of a common surname, offensive or ridiculous surnames, the rare and conspicuous family name of a criminal or changing the name of a child after divorce in the best interest of the child. As correctly pointed out in the above mentioned court verdict, the name of a historical, literary or political personality is invariably inadmissible (No. 53 para. 1 NamändVwV).

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