Give Me a ©! Supreme Court Rules Cheerleader Uniforms can be Copyrighted

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NEW YORK — Cheerleader uniforms can be copyrighted — even if their designs are mostly made up of stripes, zigzags and chevrons.

That ruling by the Supreme Court came Wednesday in a copyright infringement case between two cheer uniform makers.

Varsity Brands, the cheer industry leader, sued the much smaller Star Athletica for copying the design of its uniforms.

“The designs are original art created by designers,” Varsity Founder and Chairman Jeff Webb told CNNMoney. “No matter what medium you put it on it’s art and has nothing to do with the silhouette, neckline or function.”

For that reason Varsity said designs should be protected by copyright.

Star Athletica, which was founded by a former Varsity employee and sells similar uniforms for less, disagreed. It argued that designs are part of the function of cheer uniforms and shouldn’t be covered.

After losing a 2010 lawsuit, Varsity Brands eventually got a favorable ruling Wednesday as the highest court of appeal said the designs were protected.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of Varsity Brands and said designs are protected if they’re a 2-D or 3-D work of art that can exist outside of a functional object.

Webb said that Star Athletica isn’t really a major player in the industry but it was “virtually copying” its designs and saying they had a right to do that.

He said other competitors haven’t weighed in on either side of the dispute.

In addition to cheer uniforms, Varsity Brands is a major provider of athletic apparel and gear and is one of the leading suppliers of graduation gowns and class rings.

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