Justices side with leading cheerleading uniform maker

March 22, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the leading maker of cheerleading uniforms in a copyright dispute with a smaller rival, ruling that uniform designs can be protected under copyright law.

The justices ruled 6-2 on Wednesday to uphold a lower court ruling in favor of Varsity Brands in its copyright infringement lawsuit against Star Athletica.

Varsity sued its competitor based on Star’s 2010 catalog that used stripes, chevrons and other designs that Varsity claimed as its own.

In his majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said artistic features on clothing deserve protection under copyright law if they can be separated from the article of clothing and would qualify for protection on their own.

The ruling is a win for fashion designers that want to enforce copyrights on the art used on clothing, handbags, home furnishings and other products.

In its Supreme Court appeal, Star argued that the designs on cheerleading uniforms can’t be separated from the uniforms themselves, and that if Varsity has its way, it would have a monopoly on the uniforms.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, saying the design features at issue can’t exist independently from the article of clothing.

The case is Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, 15-866.


This story has been corrected to show the case involves copyright, not patent infringement.

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