The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that cheer leading uniforms may be subject to copyright protection. In particular, in Varsity Brands vs. Star Athletica, the court overruled a district court’s holding that the Varsity Brand uniforms were not separable from the utilitarian aspects of the uniform and thus not eligible for copyright protection.
The appellate court found that the design aspects of a cheer leading uniform can exist independently from the utilitarian ones. The court found that Varsity’s designers “arrange various graphic elements, including stripes, lines, chevrons, angles, curves, coloring, and shapes.” Id. at 28. The court concluded that the arrangement of design aspects to be totally separable from the garment’s functional aspects, namely “ to cover the body, permit free movement, and wick moisture.”
What is the take away here? Well for the fashion industry, this is good news. The appellate court is recognizing the separation of the functional aspects of a garment from the design elements. If that can be shown in this case, Varsity Brands may prevail on its copyright infringement claims against Star Athletica and companies moving forward may obtain copyright protection for their garments.
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