It has long been speculated that iconic 007 villain Blofeld (originated by Anthony Dawson in From Russia with Love and later personified by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice) and his evil organization SPECTRE will be returning in Bond 24. That's a little closer to happening, now that MGM has won a fifty year legal battle with the Kevin McClory estate, which reverts the rights for these characters back to the studio.
Yesterday, MGM and Danjag announced that they now have all the rights and interests to the franchise once held by Kevin McClory and his estate. McClory helped craft the screenplay for Thunderball in the late 50s, though the film didn't see the screen until 1965, after Blofeld and SPECTRE had already made their appearance, with SPECTRE showing up in the 1962 franchise debut Dr. No.
It is Kevin McClory who claims to have created these, and a number of other characters for the long running series, which now spans six decades. He is also credited for giving the characters a more 'movie-friendly' persona. At this time, no details of the settlement have been released to the public. The settlement came sometime in the last two weeks.
The case originated in 1961, when McClory sued Bond creator Ian Fleming, winning partial copyright to Thunderball's story. A settlement was reached in 1963, and the movie eventually came out in 1965. Since that time, McClory's estate has gone head-to-head with MGM and producers in a number of court battles. In 1983, Kevin joined Warner Bros., using his Thunderball rights to bring Sean Connery back to the big screen as 007 in Never Say Never Again. He intended to start his own Bond franchise, but Sony countersued, and that never came to fruition.
McClory passed away in 2006, though his estate continued to fight for the rights to his characters and story ideas. Now that MGM has finally won, it isn't clear how they will move ahead with these new story elements. This could make for a Bond 24 that plays as a direct homage to the original films in the canon. Something Skyfall slyly hinted at.