A federal appeals court panel has ruled that an Australian couple can proceed with a lawsuit that alleges their idea for a shape-shifting creature was wrongly used in the film "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." (search)

Filia and Constantinos Kourtis claim that they came up with the character in 1987 for a movie called "The Minotaur." The couple hired a writer, William Green, to craft a screenplay, and they allege that the screenplay was shared with James Cameron (search), who directed and co-wrote "Terminator 2."

The sci-fi film, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) before he entered politics, was released in 1991 and featured a character that can transform its appearance.

Green, who alleged that he owned the copyright to the screenplay, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cameron and others after the movie was released, but the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.

The Kourtises later challenged Green's ownership of the script in an Australian court and prevailed in 1998.

The couple then filed their own lawsuit against Cameron, alleging that he used their shape-changing concept without providing payment or attribution.

A district court granted Cameron's motion to dismiss the couple's lawsuit, concluding that the earlier decision in Green's lawsuit precluded them from litigating the copyright infringement issue again.

The couple appealed and a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday in a 17-page ruling that they were not a party to the earlier case and should have their day in court.

A phone message left after hours by The Associated Press at Cameron's production company wasn't immediately returned.