Trademark and Copyright

By Tamar Duvdevani

On March 22, 2017, in a 6-2 decision authored by Justice Thomas, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the designs on Varsity Brands’ cheerleading uniforms are eligible for copyright protection.  The crux of this decision relates to the fact that the United States Copyright Act treats the copyrightability of “useful articles” differently than “pure” works of art.  Specifically, the Act states that: “The design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”  17 U.S.C. § 101.
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