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Are Cheerleader Uniforms Copyrightable? Supreme Court Will Decide the Limits of Copyright Protection

May. 03, 2016|By Gregory B. Collins

On May 2, 2016, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, Inc.  The Court will consider whether the design of a cheerleading uniform is protectable under copyright law.  In a split ruling, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court's finding that the uniform designs were not protectable.  The Sixth Circuit held that the creative arrangement of strips, chevrons, zigzags and color blocks in the outfits "were more than aesthetic touches." Accordingly, these aspects of the design were properly protected under copyright law. 

It is well-settled that an artistic design on a piece of clothing is copyrightable.  In Star Athletica, the Supreme Court will decide how far copyright protection stretches.  Is a "creative arrangement of sequins, beads, ribbon, and tulle" copyrightable?  The Court's decision will have wide ranging implications for the fashion and apparel industry. 

A decision is expected by June 2017.


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