A long-running legal dispute over the rights of ownership of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld has been settled, meaning the famous character could return to the silver screen in future 007 films, reports the BBC.
The character, best known for having a hidden face and appearing stroking a white cat, first appeared in print in the 'Thunderball' story and was a joint creation of author Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory.
However, he was later given prominent roles in several of the Bond films, appearing in From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds are Forever, For Your Eyes Only and Never Say Never Again.
McClory and another writer, Jack Whittingham, were key contributors to the script for Thunderball, and Fleming then took the character when penning the book of the same name, without seeking their permission or crediting them.
The two writers successfully sued Fleming in 1963, before McClory went on to produce the film version of Thunderball in 1965.
McClory also won the right to produce his own Bond film, 1983's Never Say Never Again, but this is widely regarded not to be part of the official Bond film franchise, despite starring Sean Connery as James Bond.
After McClory's death in 2006, the dispute over the use of the Blofeld character raged on, but it has now been announced that the character could make a return in a future Bond film, after the franchise owners MGM and Danjaq made an out-of-court settlement with McClory's estate.
"The 50-year intellectual property row involving James Bond was settled because of a great deal of hard work by the attorneys for the Estate of Kevin McClory, MGM, and Danjaq and will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world," said a statement by William Kane, a partner at BakerHostetler LLP who represented the McClory estate.