Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc.

Designs on cheerleaders’ uniforms were copyright protected because they could both (a) be perceived as two-dimensional artwork separate from the uniform itself, and (b) qualify as a protectable pictorial or graphic artworks in their own right or as applied on another medium.  Sections 101 and 113(a) of the Copyright Act allow a person to claim copyright protection for a feature of a useful article if (a) the feature can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional artwork separate from the useful article, and (b) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic or sculptural work of art either in its own right or as applied on another medium.  Here, the designs on cheerleaders’ uniforms met that test and thus were copyrightable designs.  The fact that the cheerleaders’ uniforms without the designs were nonfunctional did not make any difference as the statute focuses on the design without the useful article, not on the useful article without the design.

United States Supreme Court (Thomas, J.; Ginsburg, J., concurring; Breyer & Kennedy, JJ., dissenting); March 22, 2017; 2017 WL 1066261



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