Are the chevrons on your team’s cheerleading uniforms copyrightable works of art?
They are indeed, according to a just released ruling by the Supreme Court. In a 6 -2 decision, the court applied a provision of federal copyright law that allows for protection of graphic works incorporated in a “useful article.”
The case was brought by Varsity Brands who sued a much smaller competitor, Star Athletica, for copyright infringement. Varsity argued the graphic elements of its cheerleader uniforms were separate from the function of the uniforms themselves, which can’t be copyrighted. The court agreed.
The ruling is seen as a win for the fashion industry, which seeks to protect itself from imitations and low end knock-offs products. But it could also have implications in the law enforcement and security industries, where garments are often embellished with patches, stripes and insignia.