The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court’s decision that gave a portion of the Superman rights to the heirs of the Man of Steel creator Jerry Siegel (see "Siegel Heirs Win Superman Case
" for an analysis of the decision that has now been reversed). Specifically in its decision
the 9th Circuit held that "the October 19th, 2001 letter (from the lawyer for Siegel heir Laura Siegel Larson to DC’s attorney) did constitute such an acceptance of terms negotiated between the parties and was thus sufficient to create a contract... The October 19th, 2001 letter itself plainly states that the heirs have accepted DC Comics offer of October 16th, 2001 in respect of the Superman and Spectre properties." Lawyers for Warner Bros. (and DC) have long argued that the company had reached an agreement with the Siegel heirs, before the intervention of copyright specialist attorney Marc Toberoff.
This latest ruling appears to put the attempt by the heirs of the original Superman creators Siegel and Schuster to regain some control over the property in serious jeopardy. In addition to today’s 9th Circuit’s opinion agreeing with DC’s contention that it had reached an accommodation with the Siegel heirs in 2001, last October a federal judge ruled that the Schuster family had reached an agreement with DC in 1992 (see "Warners Wins Another Round in Superman Case
"). Based on these two decisions it appears that Warner Bros. and DC Comics can proceed with Superman
movies and comics with little fear of legal challenge.
Of course the Schuster heirs can appeal the October decision, and Toberoff and the Siegel heirs can take the 9th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court for a final review, so this long-running legal battle is not necessarily over yet, though the end does appear to be in sight.