The Sixth Circuit Court let stand a previous ruling that cheerleader outfits are eligible for copyright protection. The case was brought by Varsity Brands back in 2010 when it claimed that its competitor, Star Athletica, had copied several of its cheerleader uniform designs. Push ‘em back, push ‘em back, waaaay back!
While U.S. Copyright law does not currently offer protection for functional aspects of apparel design, copyright protection can be extended to decorative features that exist independent of the clothing’s functional aspects. This fuzzy part of copyright law is known as the “Conceptual Separability Doctrine” and it was the focus of the court’s ruling. The court distinguished between “fabric design” and “garment design.” The court ruled that chevrons, stripes, and other decorative elements of the plaintiff’s cheerleader uniforms were identifiable items that differentiated Varsity Brands’ products from the completion.