The US Supreme Court ruled today (March 22) that basic decorative elements in cheerleader uniform designs are protected by copyright law. The decision comes nearly seven years after Varsity Brands, the leading American maker of the garments, first sued Star Athletica, a smaller rival, for infringing on five Varsity cheerleading uniform designs. The case hung on the question of whether certain arrangements of lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes on the front of these uniforms could be copyrighted.
The Supreme Court ruling won’t change anything for designers, she says, but does preserve the little protection they have come to rely on for their designs. “The fashion industry barely has protection over fabric prints, lace patterns, jewelry, belt buckles, or handbag clasps,” says Scafidi. That’s because designers cannot copyright the cut or shape of three-dimensional garments in the US. “Copying is rampant and protection is limited,” says Scafidi, “so the industry needs to hold onto the little protection it does have to prevent design piracy.”
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