Bond villain Blofeld could return to Bond
Famous Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld could appear in future 007 films now that a long-running legal dispute has been settled.
Kevin McClory, who came up with the story for Thunderball with Ian Fleming, had been locked in a battle over Bond rights since 1959.
McClory, and later his estate, asserted he had created the Blofeld character.
Now film studio MGM and Bond film company Danjaq have acquired all the rights from McClory's estate.
A joint statement from the three parties involved said the deal brought "to an amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically over 50 years".
The agreement means that Bond producers are clear to use the Blofeld character again if they wish.
Blofeld's face was often concealed in the films as the camera focused on him stroking his white cat.
The character has appeared in six official Bond films - From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and For Your Eyes Only (1981), as well as McClory's Never Say Never Again (1983).
He has been played by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray and Max von Sydow.
The dispute began when McClory worked on the script for Thunderball, which first introduced the character of Blofeld.
It was then used by Fleming to form the basis for his novel of the same name.
But McClory and another scriptwriter, Jack Whittingham, were unaware the novel was being published and were not credited.
This led them to sue Fleming successfully in 1963.
McClory, who died in 2006, produced the movie of Thunderball in 1965.
But the dispute raised its head again in the 1970s, when McClory wanted to make another Bond film - he won the right to do so in court and the result was his 1983 movie Never Say Never Again.
He brought back Sean Connery as agent 007 after a 12-year hiatus, and the film was again based on the Thunderball novel.
However the movie has never been welcomed into the official Bond canon.
McClory lost another legal case in 2001 over the rights to the James Bond film character.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco dismissed his case, saying McClory had waited too long to make a claim.
The next Bond film, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendes, is due for release in 2015.