The US Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that some features of cheerleader uniform designs are eligible for copyright protection — giving a crucial victory to leading cheerleader uniform maker Varsity Brands in a decision that could have huge implications for the fashion industry.
The justices ruled 6-2 to uphold a lower court’s ruling allowing a lawsuit by Varsity Brands alleging smaller rival Star Athletica LLC infringed five of its designs to go ahead.
In the majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas the court put forth a two-part test for whether design elements warranted copyright protection.
The justices said: “A feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work — either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression — if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated.
“That test is satisfied here.”