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Supreme Court Finds Copyright Protection in Cheerleader Uniform

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2017 | Uncategorized

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a decision in the case of Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., in which the Court held that artistic designs incorporated into cheerleading uniforms are eligible for copyright protection. Prior to this decision, artistic elements of clothing items were typically not copyrightable under the “useful article” doctrine, because they were not considered sufficiently separable from the functional clothing items to which they were attached.

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a decision in the case of Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., in which the Court held that artistic designs incorporated into cheerleading uniforms are eligible for copyright protection. Prior to this decision, artistic elements of clothing items were typically not copyrightable under the “useful article” doctrine, because they were not considered sufficiently separable from the functional clothing items to which they were attached.

In Star Athletica, the Court clarified that an artistic element of a useful article is copyrightable if the element (1) could be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work if applied to some other tangible medium. The Court held that the artistic surface decorations on the cheerleading uniforms in this case satisfied both of those elements.

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