The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the designs on cheerleading uniforms are entitled to copyright protection under federal law.
The Court’s decision hinged on whether the design aspects such as colors, stripes, curves and diagonals, were separate from the utilitarian aspects of a cheerleading uniform, i.e. the uniforms’ ability to cover the body, wick away moisture and allow cheerleaders to jump, kick and flip.
The lower court had found that the designs could not be separated, physically or conceptually, because to do so would erase an observer’s ability to identify the wearer as a cheerleader.
The 6th Circuit disagreed, finding that the design aspects were separable, stating that “nothing (save perhaps good taste) prevents Varsity from printing or painting its designs, framing them, and hanging the resulting prints on the wall as art.”
The Court upheld the validity of the copyrights and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings, chief among which will be a determination regarding whether the designs contain the requisite level of originality to warrant copyright protection.
Read the full text of the opinion here.
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