Cheerleading Uniform Copyrights Backed by US Supreme Court
Cheerleading Uniform Copyrights Backed by US Supreme Court
The fashion industry is also cheering
24 March, 2017, 03:15
Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented, arguing that even under the majority's test, the designs can not be perceived as separate from the cheerleading uniform.
Applying this test to the surface decorations on the cheerleading uniforms is straightforward.
"As Varsity would have it, it would prevent its competitors from making useful three-dimensional cheerleader uniforms by submitting plainly unoriginal chevrons and stripes as cut and arranged on a useful article", Breyer wrote.
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The Copyright Act expressly addresses this issue in connection with "useful articles", which are defined as items "having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information". The Court re-emphasized, however, that a design feature itself can not constitute a useful article and still obtain copyright protection.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an apparel company's copyrights on its cheerleading outfits in a ruling that bolsters the legal protections for pictures and graphic designs. Accordingly, the decorations were found separable from the uniforms and eligible for copyright protection.
In this case, Varsity argued the graphic elements of its cheerleader uniforms were separate from the function of the uniforms themselves, which can't be copyrighted. In a 51-page majority opinion, justice Clarence Thomas wrote that since the uniforms-similar to a t-shirt, paper towels, car, or other useful real-world items -serve a function, they can not be copyrighted. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, opined that "the uniform design met the [separability] test of being able to exist as its own pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work".
After losing a 2010 lawsuit, Varsity Brands eventually got a favorable ruling Wednesday as the highest court of appeal said the designs were protected.
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