Every cheerleader loves wearing his or her uniform, proudly displaying their team's colors, but can a cheerleading uniform be copyrighted? Varsity Brands Inc., one of the biggest cheerleader uniform makers in America, says yes and sued Star Athletica LLC for reproducing five of their copyrighted designs.
Star claimed that Varsity did not hold those copyrights, and aMemphis district court originally agreed with Star in 2014. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision 2-1. Judge Karen Nelson Moore, the majority opinion writer, said Varsity could copyright its uniforms because the designs were independent from the functionality of the uniforms including covering the body, wicking away moisture, and allowing the cheerleader to do jumps and flips. With this interpretation, the majority decided that design elements such as colors, chevrons, and stripes were decorative, not functional, and protected under the Copyright Act. In the simplest terms, while cheerleading uniforms can't be copyrighted, the designs on them can be copyrighted based on this ruling.
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