This Wednesday, Judge Stephen Larson determined that the Siegels control the rights to the early comic strips and stories that show Superman’s early history (Krypton, Zor-El and Lara, baby Kal-El and the origin storyline.) I’m not sure how this will affect the Smallville aspect to the case. This means that DC will have to seek permission to use these elements in their publications (and movies). I should also not that the Court has previously ruled that all the remaining rights will transfer back to Joe’s heirs in 2013. DC still owns a lot of the later elements of the Superman universe, including Lex Luthor, most of his powers like flight, super breath, x-ray vision, etc. (when Supes first came on the scene he was a glorified strongman), the term kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, The Daily Planet and others.
Does this mean DC will no longer produce Superman? I doubt it. Superman merchandising is a gold mine and everyone knows DC dug the mine. Most likely, a settlement will be reached whereby DC will pay to license the character from the heirs. At least until Superman enters public domain in 2033 (in his original form).
Here is the link to the Variety article that broke the story.